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Hartselle schools expect largest budget in history

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The Hartselle City School system is expected to pass the largest budget in its history for the new academic year.

The estimated $28.2 million budget, which custodian of funds Sarita Tapscott presented to the board Thursday night, is up by more than $3 million.

The reason for the increase is a state-mandated 7 percent pay raise for all employees and an increase in the cost of benefits for current and retired employees.

"There is nothing we can do about this," Tapscott said during the first of two required public hearings.

The next hearing is Monday at 5 p.m. in the central office on College Street.

The board didn't seem surprised about the increases, only questioning Tapscott when she discussed local funds.

Local revenue, which is money the board can use at its discretion, is projected to be $7.7 million or 27 percent of the budget.

This figure includes a $54,000 appropriation from the City Council and $926,577 city leaders pay on school bonds.

Board member Jeff Gray said the council's $54,000 appropriation isn't enough to pay for even one teacher unit.

Last month, Gray criticized the council for not having what he called "the political will" to increase taxes for a new high school.

As is the case with most school systems in the state, the largest percentage of operating revenue for Hartselle is projected to come from the state.

The money, which is spending specific, is projected to be $19 million, or 68 percent of the 2007-08 budget.

The federal part of the budget is projected to be $1.3 million, or 5 percent.

Tapscott said Hartselle will receive 3.26 additional state-funded teachers. But this does not decrease the need for the 17.04 local teacher units in the budget, she said.

Those units will cost about $1.4 million next year.

"But we want this because parents want smaller class sizes," Tapscott said. "We're also able to offer a lot of extra classes that other systems don't, and this is good for our students."

Superintendent William Michael Reed said the local money will fund the 7 percent pay increase for local units.

"As the state gives raises, we have to cut local units to absorb the cost, and that is not good," the superintendent said.

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