The budget, approved by the board at a meeting Tuesday at Ranburne High School, requires the school system to dip into reserves for about $300,000 to cover a shortfall in revenue. The 2014 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The budget absorbs a 10 percent across-the-board cut in federal funding, which means the system must use more local money to provide the same services, Superintendent Claire Dryden said.
The cuts were partially offset by an increase in funding from the state Department of Education, up to $17.7 million from $16.5 million in the current fiscal year. The system received the increase because its enrollment rose last year, Dryden said.
“State funding is always a year behind,” Dryden said.
The school system has the most flexibility in spending local money and a small amount of state funding called “other current expenses,” Dryden said. The system uses that money to address local priorities including hiring extra teachers, teaching aides, reading coaches and nurses beyond what the state funds. It also pays for extracurricular activities such as band and athletics, and the balance of the cost of services such as transportation and textbooks. For instance, the state pays the system $31.35 per student for textbooks, but the average textbook costs $75, Dryden said.
This year the system has 2,595 students and 319 employees, Dryden said. The enrollment is almost identical to last school year’s enrollment of 2,597. But staffing has increased from 310 last school year. The increase includes eight more teachers and two more administrators, but a decrease in support staff.
Dryden said at the first budget hearing on Monday that the budget reflects her opinion that the money is best spent in the classroom.
“You can purchase all the materials you want and if you don’t have quality teachers in there and smaller groups to instruct, then you’ve wasted your money,” Dryden said.
Board member Hope Lee said she is happy with the budget overall.
“We can always use more money, but Mrs. Dryden is doing a wonderful job with streamlining,” Lee said.
Lee said she was pleased the system was able to cut the amount of money set aside for maintenance and repair of the facilities. The system set aside $119,000 this year versus $264,000 in last year’s budget, she said. The change was made because the system was able to make some of the needed repairs, she said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.