published Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

School system increases shortfall estimate in Hamilton County

by Dan Whisenhunt

Hamilton County Schools Accounting and Budgeting Director Christie Jordan presented revised estimates to School Board members today that show a projected revenue shortfall of $14.3 million for next year’s budget, an increase of $4 million from the most recent estimate.

The school board is projecting roughly $2.7 million less in property tax revenues and about $500,000 less from other revenue sources, which Jordan said is primarily reimbursements from grants.

The budget also includes $850,000 in additional special education costs, because Jordan said 95 percent of children testing for special education are “testing in.” It also includes $481,379 in operating costs for the David Brainerd School which the school board is in the process of purchasing to alleviate elementary school overcrowding.

One recommendation to close the budget gap would be to increase insurance costs for dependent insurance care from $50 to $200. The original list of options to reduce costs included increasing it between $50 and $100. Increasing dependent coverage by $200 per month would generate $4.8 million in savings.

Superintendent Jim Scales said he's also in talks with the teacher's union to increase the cost of individual care from $25 to $100, which he said would be more fair and would generate $4 million in savings.

Another plan calls for eliminating medical benefits for contract bus drivers, which would save $490,000.

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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