published Friday, April 13th, 2012

School board members discuss how to appropriate extra funds

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School board members haggled over how to handle an unexpected $1.3 million addition to their budget for next year at Thursday night's board meeting.

Rhonda Thurman, a board member from District 1, said she thinks the money should be pumped into school maintenance projects and that some jobs should be cut. She said the system has to stop using one-time money to float positions it can't afford and isn't even sure are effective.

"This is a shell game," she said Thursday night after the budget proposal was made. "We have been cutting to the bone ever since I've been here, and we've yet to see the bone."

Other members disagreed. One said he was worried that shaving teachers would hurt public schools' chances of competing with charter and private schools in the area.

"I don't believe in cuts," said school board member George Ricks. "Pretty soon we are going to cut ourselves out of business."

School officials were notified of a potential boost to their budget from sales tax revenue on Tuesday. The projected budget is expected to total more than $383 million.

New projections released to the board on Thursday showed an extra $500,000 in sales tax revenue and an extra $800,000 from the state's Basic Education Program.

Schools Superintendent Rick Smith said he also expects to save an additional $600,000 in utility costs this year because of the mild winter.

The extra cash could help the board partially restore capital maintenance cuts and reduce the number of personnel who would have to be cut to balance the budget, Smith told the board.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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