Birmingham Board approved new budget

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham's Board of Education approved a new budget Thursday that does not cut teacher pay or freeze salaries. But that doesn't mean the system lacks financial concern.

Cutting administrator's pay by 10% and freezing salaries were 2 of the recommendations in a list of cost-cutting suggestions from the school system's Chief Financial Officer Arthur Watts. But the board shied away from that after protests from the teacher's union and learning such a move is illegal.

"Because the fiscal year began for some employees on July 1, we could not penalize half the workforce and penalize the whole," School Board President April Williams said. "So everyone would have had to make those adjustments prior to July 1."

"We're very happy that the superintendent decided to throw those cuts aside and approve salary cuts that are fair to those employees and don't harm any of our members in Birmingham," Birmingham Educators Association representative Lance Hyche said.

But there are still hard choices ahead. The budget approved today is $18 million smaller than last year, and the system may have to cut $12-$15 million more if proration is declared.

Governor Riley's office told FOX6 news that Riley could declare proration as early as October 1, which starts the new budget year. New tax figures cited by the AEA show what was once thought to be an 8-10% cut, may now only be 6%.

That still means millions in cuts and among the things under consideration are charging students more fees, cutting programs like middle school marching band, and slashing jobs in support staff.

"We have not taken necessarily anything off the table,: Williams said. "We have to be reasonable in understanding we still have to have school. And we want our students to be successful both academically as well in our extracurricular activities."

The school board is asking for the public's help in finding creative ways to save money and the finance committee plans to hold work sessions to brainstorm ideas. Some of those may have to be put in place in a matter of weeks.