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Schools cope with limited funds

In spite of the fact that state funding for education continues to diminish as the result of a deflated economy, there was no pulling of hair or wringing of hands by school board members when the first of two public budget reviews was conducted Monday night.
The reason was the good news outweighed the bad.
The schools will get a $1.7 million boost from temporary federal funding in 2010-2011, according to Custodian of Funds Sarita Tapscott. Of that amount, $626,097 is coming from   a jobs stimulus bill recently approved by Congress. The remainder is carryover funding from federal stimulus money allocated in the prior year.
“We’re fortunate to be better off financially than a lot of other school systems in the state,” Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed said. “Our goal has been to get through these difficult economic times without losing any of our teachers.”
Bottom line figures in the proposed budget reflect anticipated revenues totaling $51.4 million. Of that amount, $21.3 million represents borrowed revenue, which will be spent for the construction of a new high school.  The remainder is about $1 million more than what was spent for education in Hartselle in 2009-2010.  It is broken down as follows: $17.2 million from the state, $2.7 million from the federal government and  $10.1 million from local sources.
The budget has a projected ending balance of $8.8 million, of which about $1.8 million is already obligated. This leaves a reserve of about $7 million, or about four months of operating capital. The state requires school systems to retain a reserve equal to three months of operating expenses.
Tapscott said the additional federal funds would be used to pay salaries of teachers above the state minimum requirement as well as teacher aides.
A boost in TVA payments in lieu of taxes has made it possible for teachers to receive an increase from $100 to $200 for classroom supplies, she said.
On the down side, both Reed and Tapscott said they expect state funding to be prorated by at least 5 percent in the next fiscal year. This would result in a loss of about $1 million in revenue and could force the school system to have to dip into its reserve fund.
“We just don’t know what it (proration) will be, and may not know until after the next governor takes office,” Reed said.
“A loss of temporary federal funds could cause a serious budgetary problem this time next year,” Tapscott said.  “We just hope the economy fully recovers before then.”
The second and final budget review will be conducted at the next regular board meeting on Sept.13.