A proposed budget for the Dothan City School system takes into account declining student enrollment and temporary federal funding.
Finance Director Stephanie Walker presented a $125 million spending budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to school board members at their first public budget hearing Monday night.
Another year in lower enrollment at the beginning of the 2020 school led to a decrease of 37.88 teaching units and a total loss of $1.9 million in state foundation funds. Because of a significant drop in enrollment over the last two years, system is receiving $5.2 million less from the state than it was receiving in the 2019-2021 school year.
Much of the loss last year was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic that sent many families searching for alternatives to public education.
Superintendent Dr. Dennis Coe said this year’s enrollment is slightly lower than last year, around 200 fewer students, as of Friday, but he expects the number to stabilize in the next week or so.
During the meeting, Walker emphasized that she budgeted “conservatively” due to less state funding. Monies from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) will be used to retain teaching units at Dothan City Schools, but that money is divvied up in three payments over three years.
The board will receive $40 million in total from that fund and has already used a significant portion to hire temporary units in positions not eligible for tenure and capital improvement projects. Remainder of the money will be used to retain existing staff.
Coe said those positions will be re-evaluated when the temporary fund dries up in three years based on the school system’s financial standing.
Board Chairman Mike Schmitz reminded the board the importance of not depending on temporary federal dollars for ongoing operational costs.
“In 2021, we’re in a good place,” Schmitz said. “Moving forward, we just have to be wise.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, the school board ratified a settlement proposal with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concerning an employee grievance. The details of the settlement were not provided.
Sable Riley is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334.712.7915. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.