"It's not a darn thing that can be done about it," Jacksonville Superintendent Eric Mackey said Wednesday.
And education leaders wonder how much longer their savings accounts can stretch. They say they already would be bankrupt without a 1-cent sales tax levy passed by Calhoun County commissioners in January, a move that generated millions and saved jobs and valuable programs.
"This is the way I look at it," said Calhoun County Superintendent Judy Stiefel, whose system is absorbing a $1 million cut, "last year, the 1-cent sales tax was the lifeline for us … This upcoming year for us, it's the life jacket. It's going to be what keeps our head afloat."
The state, saddled by the flagging economy, was forced Friday to impose a 2-percent proration in education spending until the new budget year begins Oct. 1. This hacked millions of dollars out of local school systems' budgets. The latest proration was on top of the 9-percent proration Gov. Bob Riley enacted in December.
Proration is mandatory budget cuts when revenues fall short of projections. It forces schools to do more with less.
Because of proration, on Jan. 1, Calhoun commissioners enacted a countywide 1-cent sales tax to help schools. The money generated is split between the county's five school systems based on size.
The city of Oxford also passed its own 1-cent initiative on top of the county's.
Oxford Superintendent Jeff Goodwin said both measures will help his system absorb the latest blow, which resulted in a $420,000 cut of state funds.
"It's something that we knew was a possibility," he said, "so we have sort of planned for additional proration."
Shoppers in Oxford pay 10 cents on the dollar, while shoppers in all other cities in the county pay 9 cents.
The cities and counties stepped up when the state couldn't.
Before Calhoun passed the measure, it was one of only five counties in the state that didn't have a sales tax levy for schools.
Mackey said he hopes the souring economy will have an immediate impact on education policies. He hopes state leaders will sit down and "really think about how we fund education, and how much flexibility we have, and how we can add more flexibility and how we can prepare better in times like this."
Efforts Wednesday to reach the superintendents of Anniston and Piedmont schools failed.