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Morgan County schools making progress toward rebuilding budget

By Bayne Hughes · 340-2432

FALKVILLE — When the Morgan County school board began fiscal 2007, it had $1.6 million in reserve — only 40 percent of what the state requires.

That got the attention of the state Department of Education, which requires that local school systems keep at least one month of operating expenses in reserve.

The state issued a mandate to the county, “Cut expenses, or else.”

A year later, as the county begins fiscal 2008, Finance Director Rodger Spillers said additional revenue and teacher and expense cuts mean the board is up to 70 percent of the state’s requirement.

The county now has about $3.6 million in reserve.

“You’ve done well,” Spillers said during the meeting at Falkville High School.

Spillers said five things contributed to the reserve boost:

  • A $509,401 payment of casual sales taxes from the Morgan County Commission. The commission collected the money for 18 years but did not distribute to the school board.

  • A $677,776 increase in 1 percent and 2 percent sales taxes from 2006.

  • A $745,855 payment of back taxes by a local industry as part of a litigation settlement. (Spillers was not sure which local industry settled a case.)

  • Department budgets cuts and saving.

  • Cutting local teacher units from about 60 last year to about 46 this year. The school system released 45 non-tenured teachers in May to give it hiring flexibility during the summer.

    On the negative side, the school system lost about $550,000 when the county let an ad valorem tax expire. County voters renewed the tax in January, but the school system won’t receive any of that until January 2008.

    Spillers said the school board would have to continue its cost-saving measures and hope that tax revenue continues to grow. The goal is about $5 million, although that could increase again in 2009. He said he hopes the final 30 percent won’t be as difficult, even though the state is saying state revenue is not as high as projected.

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