School board discusses budget woes

By Staff
Nathan Strickland
RED BAY- The Franklin County School Board changed venues for their monthly meeting, trying to spread around their explanation for the one-cent tax increase that was implemented earlier this month.
WRMG radio/ T.V. 12 hosted the event as this month's meeting headed to Red Bay.
Superintendent of Franklin County Schools Gary Williams tried his best to explain the reasoning behind the increase.
"Our backs are against the wall," he said. "We can't host enough fundraisers or make enough cuts to make up our $3.8 million deficit."
Williams said that four years ago the Alabama legislature passed a bill saying that every school system in Alabama should have a "month's fund balance."
This means the Franklin County school system should have at least $2.1 million in a savings account somewhere every month to function. Williams said Franklin County has never been able to have that balance.
"A few years ago our month's fund balance was negative $300,000," Williams said.
"A year ago we were able to get back to $5,000 in the black, now that's not much but it was better than being in the red. We have made some progress."
Williams believed everything was going to be better but then an 11 percent hike from proration hit and knocked the school system right back in the hole for the 2008-2009 school year.
In 2009, the school board decided to then go and borrow money from the bank and established a $1.5 million credit line. Williams said by the spring it was gone and they had to go back and borrow again, then by November the well had run dry again.
"We are currently short $280,000 making our payroll and we have no other way to bring in revenue, we can't charge tuition," Williams said. "So we did not what the board didn't necessarily want to do, but what we had to do. We asked the county commission to help us with the sales tax."
The commission implemented the tax from Jan. 1 to June, when county voters will decide whether or not to keep the tax in place for two years.
Williams said the tax will bring in about $2 million a year and will be split, 58 percent going to county schools and 42 percent going to Russellville city schools, each year based on student population.
Williams said right now there is around $42,000 available with two additional revenues coming in; a $600,000 ad valorem tax in January and a Section 16 tax equaling $200,000.
After these two revenues come in, there will not be any more funds, other than the local tax, until next November, Williams said.
"People say that the board is wasting money but that is far from true. We don't have any money to waste," Williams said. "We have made cuts and we plan to do some more cutting come spring time."
Williams said he wants to set the record straight once and for all.
"People are saying we have too many employees at our central office, that is not true. Studies show we are way in the bottom half of offices employed in the state," he said. "No one knew we were going to be in this position. We are being moderate as best we can. This tax is going to help us tremendously, but we are still going to have to do something else for revenue to make up for our cuts."
The Franklin County School Board meeting may be seen in its entirety by logging on to www.wrmgradio.com and clicking on Watch T.V. 12/ T.V. 97 located on the sidebar. The board's next scheduled meeting is set for Feb. 25 at 5:15 p.m. at Tharptown School.

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