Governor’s budget includes cuts to local school systems
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Feb 09, 2012 | 22959 views |  0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Laura Johnson

lbjohnson@annistonstar.com

Jacksonville State University, Gadsden State Community College and Calhoun County schools won’t be spared from cuts if Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed budget is passed.

JSU would lose roughly $1.5 million — compared to its $36 million appropriation in 2012 — in the budget the governor proposed Wednesday, while the state’s community colleges would lose roughly $6 million from their roughly $272 million budget.

The cuts will be managed in much the same way proration has been in previous years, local administrators say. It’s nothing new for Alabama’s public school systems.

“I know it sounds gory but what it’s hoping to prevent is cutting in the middle of the year,” said Lesley Poe, the county school system’s chief financial officer. “We can actually know and work off of it, which is a good thing.”

Educators in grades K-12 are being told by the Alabama Department of Education to expect a 3 percent budget cut, Poe said. That would mean the Calhoun County Board of Education would lose roughly $1.4 million from its $47 million budget.

Calhoun County schools Superintendent Joe Dyar said the 3 percent cut would likely be applied across the board to all school systems.

Should the governor’s budget pass, JSU will absorb the loss by slightly reducing funding in several areas, said JSU President Bill Meehan.

“We will have to continue to tighten our belt,” Meehan said. “We can handle this. There is no sense in whining about it.”

It remains unclear how much money the institutions will actually lose. According to reports in the Associated Press, some members of the Legislature’s Republican majority have told Bentley, also a Republican, that the budget can’t pass as-is.

Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, is among the legislators who are not satisfied with the governor’s budget. He said the mood in Montgomery Tuesday was “somber.”

“We all have different ideas,” Wood said. “At the end of the day I hope we get to the same place.”

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said there will have to be changes before the governor’s budget can pass. He downplayed the notion that GOP legislators are at odds with Bentley over the proposal.

“I think the governor has made a good effort,” Marsh said. “I’m willing to take this as a document to start with.”

Marsh said the main source of contention was the governor’s proposal to shift responsibility for various child health care programs to the Education Trust Fund budget. Those programs are currently part of Medicaid, which is funded under the General Fund budget.

“What you’re seeing is a move to shift the responsibility back to the General Fund,” he said.

Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

Assistant Metro Editor Tim Lockette contributed to this story.


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