Lots of numbers but what do they mean?

2009-2010 Education Budget

“Until the budget is official, we just don’t know,” said Blount County Superintendent of Education Jim Carr earlier this week.

“The most recent projections have us (Blount County) losing about $2 million from the foundation funding. That will add up to a total loss of about $2.5 million for the next fiscal year.

“Of course, until we get the final budget – hopefully, sometime next month – we really don’t know exactly what we are looking at.”

“Like Mr. Carr has said before, we run a pretty frugal system,” said financial officer Marcena Bryson. “That means there is not a whole lot of room for us to maneuver when it comes to making substantial cuts.”

The Blount County system stood to lose about $4 million originally after Gov. Bob Riley declared proration in effect for state education. Since then, the Governor has dipped into the state’s rainy-day fund and loosened earmarking of other monies to allow system’s to make it through the current school year.

Now, the fight begins for next year’s dollars and the battle lines, so to speak, are clearly drawn.

“Most educators suggest we back off funding some programs,” said Carr. “Maybe just maintain funding for some instead of trying to grow those programs.”

For example, the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) funding has increased 7.98 percent, ACCESS Distance Learning has increased 8.77 percent, and the Alabama Math and Science Teaching Initiative (AMSTI) has increased 9.1 percent.

According to Bryson, for fiscal year 2009 the Blount County system is set to receive $690,885 for ARI and $425,000 for ACCESS Distance Learning. The funding for AMSTI was not included in the latest batch of information from Montgomery.

“Unfortunately, unless something changes, we are going to see some personnel losses in some areas,” said Carr. “The state has changed the divisors to allow for larger class sizes which will help us a bit.”

Some personnel losses will be absorbed through retirements – the system averages about eight to 10 retirements each year.

“As of now, we just don’t know,” said Carr. “Next month, the numbers should firm up quite a bit but as of now we are still not sure exactly what the budget will look like.”