Calhoun County school board keeps 14 teachers by dipping into reserves
by Laura Johnson
Star Staff Writer
Sep 02, 2011 | 3396 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Calhoun County School Board lost state funding for 14 teachers for 2012, but will retain them for at least one year by dipping into its reserve fund, officials said.

On Thursday the school board passed a budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins Sept. 30. It includes funding for the teachers who might have been cut had the school board not decided to use local tax revenue to pay their salaries.

“We won’t be able to do this every year,” Superintendent Joe Dyar said. “If the economy doesn’t take an upswing next year we’ll have to make some hard decisions.”

The local allocation also keeps school nurses funded for the hours they’ve previously been working.

The school system will absorb state funding cuts and a $3.6 million dollar loss of federal stimulus funds by accessing its reserve fund. Currently the fund holds about $11 million, or two months operating reserves, according to Lesley Poe, the school system’s chief financial officer.

The use of the fund will deplete it by half, leaving it with just one month’s operating reserve — the minimum required by the state, Poe said.

Dyar said the system won’t be able to pay teachers with the reserve fund next year. If revenue doesn’t increase, he added, the school system may have to release some employees next year. So far the system has been able to avoid raising classroom sizes by maintaining the same number of teachers. They’ve done so by attrition in the system’s central office, trying to keep the effects of budget cuts from the classroom, he said.

“The local schools are the last place we want the budget cuts to be felt,” Dyar said.

But there is at least one area where that can’t be avoided this year. Calhoun County Schools will have to redirect about $200,000 in funding from the system’s elementary schools to pay for teacher education courses in order to meet government guidelines.

That means the elementary schools will be paid $361.17 for the year for each child on free and reduced lunch instead of the $571.84 it would have received, said Cindy Hunt, Federal programs coordinator. The loss totals $210.67 for each child on free and reduced lunch in the system’s elementary schools.

Teachers will receive some reprieve from funding cuts in the classroom. The state is restoring partial funding to an allocation that traditionally provides additional funds for each classroom.

This year Calhoun County is receiving $79,000, or $134 per classroom, from the state. The school board will receive $166 additional for the classroom form the county’s general fund.

“We just do the best we can. We still address the students’ needs,” Hunt said. “If a teacher sees a need most of them take the money out of their pocket.”

Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.

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