Schools brace for budget cuts
Staff Reports, Hartselle Enquirer
An approximate $100 million state K-12 education budget cut is expected to snip away at many programs and services offered by public school systems across the state-and Hartselle may be one of the deepest gouged.
Following the defeat of the proposed Amendment One, State Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson revealed last Thursday a series of unavoidable budget cuts to meet projected budget shortfalls in the fiscal year 2004 budget.
"It is unfortunate that these cuts are necessary," Richardson said. "Much of the progress we have made in the last few years will be erased due to program cuts and staff reductions."
According to Richardson, money for teacher material and supplies, purchasing technology, textbooks, library enhancement, and teacher training will need to be slashed or eliminated.
Richardson has also identified the Hartselle City School System as one of the state's 44 public school systems expected to start the 2004 fiscal year with less than one month's operating expenses in reserve.
"I just don't have much information right now and I won't know how this will affect our system until I meet with the State Department of Education Oct. 3," Superintendent Dr. Lee Hartsell said. "I do think we'll be alright for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Next year will be the big problem."
Neighboring Jackson County, Limestone County and Madison County school systems were also identified.
Franklin County and Lawrence County systems are expected to start the 2004 fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, with less than two week's operating expenses in reserve.
"These systems will have an especially difficult year ahead. Most have cut programs and services to the quick already," Richardson said.
Several options are being discussed to help local systems meet their own budget shortfalls. They include shortening the school year and charging fees for elective classes and extra curricular activities.
Fees are possible for sports, music and arts programs. Specifics on those options will be announced following the completion of the budget process.
Other budget cut recommendations made by Richardson include cuts in personnel and programs, including money earmarked for fine arts and career technical programs, reduction in funds for graduation exam preparation, and minimizing the number of Alabama Reading Initiative schools from 400 to approximately 100.
The State Superintendent also expects approximately 4,000 teachers and 2,000 support workers will be laid off this spring effecting class sizes and services to students and parents.
The recommendations were made to state Finance Director Drayton Neighbors in advance of this week's special session of the Alabama Legislature.