Funding cuts loom
Hartsell: Deficit is more than first predicted
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle City Schools Superintendent Dr. Lee Hartsell said after attending a superintendents' meeting in Montgomery last week, the outlook for Hartselle's school system is bleak.
"I've returned from Montgomery with no good news," Hartsell said. "The 5 percent reduction in spending I had estimated at $700,000 was estimated by the state at nearly $750,000, but we're still trying to figure it out."
The spending reduction comes in response to additional funding needed by the school system for the 2003-2004 academic year.
After first looking into expenditures at the central office, Hartsell has asked principles at the system's five schools to evaluate where cuts can be made.
"I hope financial cuts will be as minimal as possible," Hartsell said. "But most likely cuts in travel and some personnel will happen."
Although the school system has lost approximately $1 million to proration in the last two years, Hartsell said current funding problems are due to rising insurance premiums and retirement funding.
"One possible solution is the support of the city though property or sales tax increases," Hartsell said. "The money has to come from somewhere."
City voters rejected a proposed 8-mill increase to support the Hartselle's school system in 1990. The city of Hartselle is currently finishing a capital improvement plan to be funded by a proposed 8 to10-mill property tax.
"Hartselle's current 5-mill property tax is among the lowest in the state," Mayor Clif Knight said. "It definitely needs an adjustment and the school system would not be excluded from its revenue."
Knight said even if a property tax increase is approved in a city vote, revenues from the increase would not be available until fiscal year 2004.
"A property tax increase would offer the school system no immediate help," Knight said. "The board will need to find a means to generate more revenue or make some hard decisions regarding the budget."
"The situation just doesn't look good right now, and I've been told that next year could even be worse," Hartsell said.
A work session will be scheduled in February outside of the regular school board meeting. Hartsell said he wants principles and board members to have financial records and reports at their disposal during the discussion.