Chief Financial Officer Melissa Lumpkin said the system is still receiving word on its allocations from the Alabama Department of Education. Until the system receives all that information, it will be difficult to estimate exactly how much the budget will be.
However, she was able to give some information. Last year’s budget was $22.9 million and included 162 teachers and 310 staff, Lumpkin said. This year, the system has hired 167.5 teachers including part-time teachers and 316 staff, she added.
Part of that increase is because the system has more students. The system received funding for 2,597 students last year and is receiving funding for 2,617 for the upcoming school year, Lumpkin said.
Superintendent Claire Dryden said she expects the budget to be a little smaller this year.
“Some areas were funded equally,” Dryden said. “Some were cut approximately 10 percent.”
She said areas such as special education and money for at-risk students, which can be used to hire additional teachers to reduce class sizes or to hire tutors, were the areas hit hardest. In addition the system is still waiting to hear from the state Department of Education if it will receive any of the federal rural money it requested, she said. Rural money is allocated based on the percentage of low-income students or those receiving free or reduced-price lunches in the system, Dryden said. It is federal money disbursed by the state, Lumpkin said.
Still the administrators are focusing on specific priorities as they create the school system’s budget. Students who were expelled before this year had no other options in Cleburne County, Dryden said. A new teacher based at the Cleburne County Career Technical School will offer some of those students a way to stay in school, Dryden said. The students can now be suspended from their home school and continue at the alternative school, she said.
Other new teachers have been hired to help reduce the size of science and math classes, Dryden said.
In addition the school system will continue to increase security at the schools and that will continue next fiscal year, Dryden said. Parents will see some of the changes immediately.
“The front doors of the schools will be locked and parents will have to buzz to get in,” Dryden said.
Some things parents won’t see, but will be noticeable in the classroom include an increase in professional development for teachers in the seventh grades and up, she said.
The school system, like systems across the state, sees a drop in achievement for middle school students, Dryden said. To combat that, the system is focusing on training teachers in best classroom practices for teachers in middle school and high school, she said.
The school will also continue to work toward providing computers for each of its middle and high school students, Dryden said.
The money to pay for these initiatives will come from local funds, Lumpkin said.
Board of Education member Hope Lee said the school system relies on local money to pay for the extras because school funding from the state and federal departments of education are generally allocated for specific purposes.
For instance money to pay for teachers or transportation can’t be used for other purposes.
“The amount of things that we have on our wish list is very limited, because it comes out of local money,” Lee said.
Local funding, mostly from property and sales taxes, makes up $3.6 million of the $22.9 million budget. Much of that is used to pay for extra teachers and staff not provided by the state, Lee said.
Still, Lee said, the board does have some priorities, such as security and maintenance at the schools.
“Right now, we are addressing the things that the board has discussed such as the safety issues,” Lee said. In addition, she noted, the budget can change throughout the year so that if needs pop up, the board can deal with them, Lee said. However, budgeting for day-to-day operations is best left to the people who work at the schools every day, she added.
Attempts to reach the other board members for comment were unsuccessful.
Staff writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.