Madison Co. schools face more budget challenges - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Madison Co. schools face more budget challenges

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

A new fiscal year means a new budget for Madison County Schools, but the district continues to struggle with low revenues and limited resources.

This week, the Madison County School Board approved a $145 million budget for the upcoming year. It is a bare bones budget that covers just the basic needs.

"There are no bells and whistles, but we are able to maintain a great staff and that is primarily where our funds go," explained the district's Chief School Finance Officer, Karen O'Bannon.

Two of the top priorities this year involve textbooks and transportation. The district needs more books and new buses, but it does not get enough state funding to cover its costs.

To fill the gap, school officials must pull from local funds which presents a whole new issues.

"We have not added a new revenue stream to local taxes in 27 years. We are still operating under the same tax base as we did 27 years ago, so it is very difficult when we are pulling from local funds to offset the deficit with state funds," said O'Bannon.

Under the overall budget, the district is also moving forward with several capital improvement projects paid for by BRAC bonds.

They include a new wing at Madison County Elementary, a new intermediate school for Lynn Fanning Elementary, and a new high school in Monrovia. All three projects aim to alleviate overcrowding and eliminate portables.

The new high school is slated to be complete in 2016 with a price tag of $46 million. District officials say they are currently looking for land to build the new school.

They say these projects will take care of several long-time needs, however there are concerns about covering the operating costs to run these new buildings.

"Madison County Schools has always done more with less. Sometimes that has hurt us down the road because people see buildings going up and they think we have money, but that is another pot of money. The BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) money is for construction only," said Madison County Schools spokesperson Geraldine Tibbs.

The district still has a long list of unfunded needs. Madison County could use more school nurses and a school resource officer at every campus. Right now some staff members are wearing many hats.

"As people have retired, the positions have not been filled and the people on staff have had to assume those responsibilities," explained Tibbs.

The district continues to face the same financial challenges as it has for a number of years now, but school officials say they have learned to do more with less.

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