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Schools bracing for brutal 2004-05

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle City School officials have pulled up their boot straps and are facing the funding shortfall expected in the coming year.
This year's shortage, however, is nothing compared to the financial bloodbath that may take place next year.
Figures released this week by the Alabama Education Association show the system losing some 18.43 teacher units next year, some 9 percent of its current staff.
Currently, the system has 197 teachers. The 9 percent cutback would mean a $1.2 million economic loss to the city, according to the AEA.
The teacher losses will mean larger classrooms in the future, something Alabama school officials have fought for several years.
The AEA is also predicting a loss in support personnel. The system currently has 151 support personnel. The system has been told to expect to lose about 13 of those. The economic impact could mean an additional $212,000 economic hit.
The financial blow was softened this year because of several factors, according to Dr. Hill Hanebuth, AEA's Manager of Research and Technology.
"The state has salvaged some of the horrors in this school year because of one-time federal state-tax refund money and because the state did not make a payment for the money borrowed from the education Rainy Day account," he said.
The state also cut out all money for new textbooks, technology, professional development or school libraries. Funds were also cut from transportation and programs for at-risk students.
The level of personnel also held constant because of Senate Bill One. The bill allowed thousands of teachers throughout the state who had been dismissed to be rehired for the current school year. That bill expires and will not be in effect for the 2004-05 school year.
Hartselle City Schools were in better shape than many systems this year and were able to continue funding for local teacher units.
Next year, however, personnel may be the main place school officials look at in an effort to balance the budget.
"Very few school systems could cover this loss with local funds," Hanebuth said. "A total 10 percent loss in total (statewide) school personnel is not an unrealistic possibility for next year."
The financial picture took a sharp turn for the worse following the defeat of Gov. Bob Riley's tax and accountability plan. The plan, which had the backing of the AEA, was soundly defeated last month.
Last week, Riley issued a warning about the increasingly dire education financial picture.
"Unfortunately, the outlook for the fiscal year 2005 budgets is even more daunting," Riley told the Legislature.
Riley said the 2005 education budget shows increased expenses, but no increased revenue.
This year's budgets have a $410 million shortfall over last year's funding. Next year's budget will be about $558 million short of this year's amount.

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