Madison City Schools officials address deficit budget

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT)-- Madison City Schools' board has approved a budget that features a $766,081.63 deficit, said Superintendent Dee Fowler.

"This is the first time in 17 years that a budget that has more expenditures than revenues has been proposed, and the board has approved," he told WHNT News 19.

It may sound like a dire situation, but Fowler says there isn't too much cause for alarm.

"This isn't a pull-your-hair-out ... type of situation," he said, explaining reserve funds can cover the deficit and bring the school system's budget into balance. Fowler said they are mandated to keep a month's funds in reserves, but the school board has chosen to keep more. Even after these funds are moved, there would still be 45 days' worth of funds in reserve.

"This is a short term fix, not a long term solution," said Fowler of using reserve money. He blames decreasing state funding, along with rapid growth, which has forced them to tighten their belt for several years.

"We have tried to hold everything close, hold the money as tightly was we can," explained Fowler. "We have postponed technology purchases, we have postponed bus purchases, we have postponed maintenance."

He said the reserve funds are, well, reserved, for "when push comes to shove." And that time has come and those upgrades are now overdue.

"We can't postpone any longer," he said. "We know what the expectation is for an education in the City of Madison. And for us to meet that expectation, we're going to have to spend this extra money."

Some of the things they've budgeted for include new computers for teachers, students, and instructional tools.

The Superintendent's office has also sent letters to parents, addressing the situation. Those went out September 17, 2015 and read in part:

"I have presented and the Board has approved our budget for this year. For the first time in 17 years the budget reflects more expenditures than revenues. Because of so many lean years in state funding we postponed projects in technology, maintenance, transportation, and instruction. Some of those simply can't wait any longer. We have the money in reserves to cover this year's deficit. We realize this deficit budgeting is a short term fix, not a long term solution."

Other school systems have also outlined concerns over the past few months, regarding to state funding.