published Friday, March 18th, 2011

Schools may face $10 million shortfall

by Dan Whisenhunt

As the school board puts together next year’s budget, it’s facing a potential $10.7 million revenue shortfall and a list of painful cuts.

“None of these are easy choices,” said Budget and Accounting Director Christie Jordan as she presented board members with a menu of possible cuts. “None of them are good choices.”

Among the recommendations are:

• Increasing health insurance costs for dependent coverage for employees: a $50 per month increase would save $1.2 million, and a $100 increase would save $2.4 million.

• Closing one to three schools, with a maximum savings of $1 million.

• Reorganizing the central office with a maximum savings of $334,000.

Jordan said adding to the difficulties is a drop in property tax revenues. She said as of Feb. 28, revenues were $1.5 million less than last year.

Superintendent Jim Scales said he planned to meet with County Trustee Bill Hullander this morning to talk about the decline in revenues. School officials had told board members at a previous meeting to expect a $7 million shortfall.

In other business, the board asked the Hamilton County Commission to buy the David Brainerd School property and pay for the startup costs to alleviate overcrowding at East Brainerd Elementary School.

The Hamilton County Commission agreed verbally Wednesday to buy the property using commercial paper debt, which is short-term debt.

The property will cost $3.4 million. Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services Gary Waters said the board is also asking the county to help pay for necessary upgrades to the property, which will raise the price to $3.5 million.

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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