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Split vote on school funds

July 04, 2012 - This year's $71 million school budget was approved in a split vote – Clarkston Board of Education Trustees Susan Boatman, Rosalie Lieblang and Joan Patterson voted against it; President Cheryl McGinnis, Vice President Elizabeth Egan, Secretary Barry Bomier and Treasurer Steve Hyer vote for it.

Concerns at the June 25 meeting included $26,000 for Middle College, a high school alternative program in partnership with a local college. Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock is working on implementing the program.

"I was surprised," said Lieblang about seeing Middle College in the budget.

She had asked at the last meeting if the administration had any new programs in the budget and they said, "No."

Between June 11-25, Middle College was added to the budget.

As a board member, she knew Rock was working on something but hadn't seen anything.

"We haven't had a presentation," Lieblang added. "Is it the right program for our district? I don't know. Until I understand the benefits and the advantages to our district, I would like to make sure we are all in agreement on how we want to implement it and know the cost associated with it."

Boatman agreed. "We have no idea what Middle College would cost the district. If you are going to do it – do it well."

Lieblang also wanted to know if students would be hireable at the end of the program. She said previous board approval of the budget for a program is approval of the program itself.

Patterson agreed.

"Last year, several times we said we didn't approve this program and was told it was built into the budget," she said.

"I am very hesistant to approve something in the budget I haven't had information on," Lieblang said. "I am not 100 percent sure what it involves, what the costs are, what the benefits are to our district."

Rock noted during his Superintendent Update they are still working out the details of Middle College.

Staff restructuring was also a concern.

"We had some questions at the last board meeting (June 11) about salaries that were added into the budget," Patterson said. "We were told it wasn't an increase but it was restructuring. We said, we didn't vote on it yet so why is it in the budget?"

Boatman asked during the budget hearing, June 25, why it was still in the budget.

"The board has not approved a restructuring plan," she said. "Had there been support from the rest of the board, a motion could have been made to amend the budget to take the staff restructuring money out of it."

Mary Beth Rogers, executive director of business services, said she would take it out if the board did not approve the budget. Then, during the year, they could bring it back.

McGinnis said she could go either way.

"Not to budget, I think, would bring more harm to it," she added during the budget hearing.

"I know the budget needed to be adapted by June 30," Boatman said. "But voting no, I knew no one was making a motion to amend. It wasn't to be irresponsible by voting no on a budget to be legally passed. There was time to have a special vote. A motion to amend it could have happened."

"I went to the meeting working together," Patterson said. "But there is a certain level I have to feel comfortable."

The $71,079,113 budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year is $3.5 million less than 2011-2012, which was $74,623,897.

Expenditures for the district are $74,324,655. It's down from the 2011-2012 fiscal year by $2.9 million, but is still $3.2 million more than revenues.

The beginning fund balance for the new fiscal year is $7,313,687.

Rogers pointed out the budget is a working document, as they are still waiting to hear from Michigan legislative about a few items.

One of them is the Senate Bill 1040 for retirement rate for Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS).

Rogers said she wouldn't know until July, when legislative went back into session.

During the budget hearing, she presented the blended rate is 26.5 percent for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, costing $900,000.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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