Recent Round of Proration Could Cripple Local Schools

By: Denise Bradberry Email
By: Denise Bradberry Email

The war of words continues between the governor and the attorney general over the BP lawsuit.

BP has rejected Alabama’s claim for nearly $150 million in lost taxes, partially blaming Troy King's lawsuit.

The governor is also blaming the attorney general, for the delay, saying that’s the reason he's had to impose a 2% proration on schools across the state.

The governor says, "One man made a brash, reckless decision to sue BP while the state was still working to recover lost tax revenue from the company.”

But the attorney general says irresponsible spending by the state is really behind the proration and Friday morning, he defended his lawsuit.

“It is precisely because of BP’s record of not living up to their commitments that I sued them. Ever since BP tricked the first fisherman in Bayou La Batre into signing the first waiver form to collect the first payment, I’ve been warning BP could not be trusted,” says King.

Then, Friday afternoon, the governor fired back saying "As governor, I will make BP pay for everything it owes, but I will never sign a contract that enriches lawyers with tens of millions of dollars that instead should be going to the people of Alabama.”

No matter who's to blame for the additional 2% proration during the last 14 days of the fiscal year, Henry County Schools Superintendent Dennis Coe says students across Alabama will be the ones most affected.

In Henry County, 2% proration equates to $375,000.

Henry County expected to end this year with less than a quarter of a month's operating expenses in reserve until increased proration was announced Thursday.

Now Coe says unless a miracle happens, they'll finish the fiscal year with just a third of a day's expenses in reserve.

"We were reassured time and time again that this very thing would not happen. From what I understand the governor did have several other options that he could have taken to prevent this from happening and he chose not to do so,” says Coe, "It's a slap in the face of a local superintendent and for the State of Alabama.”

Over the past couple years the Henry County School System has cut $5.5 million out of its budget by cutting teacher units, an alternative school consolidation, closing a middle school and cutting the N.J.R.O.T.C. Program.

"We have nowhere else to cut," says Coe.

Coe says oil spill or not, Alabama schools have seen 20.5% proration over the past two years and the problem is in the way public schools are funded.

"This is a prime example of how things operate and have been operating in Montgomery. We have based budget after budget after budget on money we hope is going to be there. You can't run a business that way and I certainly don't run a school system this way and the people of Alabama shouldn't expect their governor and the legislature to run our government that way,” says Coe.

He says this past year's budget included $220 million the state government wasn't sure was going to be there.

“The governor and the legislature need to put on their big boy pants and lets solve the problem because they're killing education in the state of Alabama," says Coe.

Coe says they've also been told to expect an additional 3 to 5 percent proration for the coming fiscal year, a cut they'd only be able to survive because of the programs they've trimmed.

He's really concerned about 2012, when $1.6 million in stimulus funds will go away.

When you subtract current proration, expected future proration and the stimulus fund loss, cuts will equal more than a third of Henry County Schools’ budget in a four year period of time.


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