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Budget tightrope


$3.8M deficit threat to remaining savings



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April 10, 2013 - Next year's school budget is expected to fall short about $3.8 million. That's about as much as Clarkston Schools will have in its fund balance.

"We're flirting with sinking below zero, going into receivership," said Deputy Superintendent Shawn Ryan to the Clarkston Board of Education, Monday night. "We cannot allow that to happen."

Preventing that will be a mix of cuts and new revenue, including wage and benefit freezes, reduction of staff, outsourcing services, compensation and benefit adjustments to lower costs, schools of choice, and sharing service with other school districts.

The budget proposal Ryan presented to school board calls for pink slips for 10 teachers, resulting in increased class sizes. Also, three teachers are expected to face layoff due to declining enrollment, saving a total of $750,000.

Layoffs are scheduled to be approved by April 22.

"That's the biggest struggle overall it's not desirable," Ryan said.

The plan calls for a mix of reductions, budget transfers, and new revenue, including $200,000 transferred from the Early Childhood Center budget fund equity and $250,000 in At Risk funding from the state.

"We have some funds squirreled away, little bit of a war chest no reduction in next year's programming," Ryan said.

Facilities and transportation cuts would be about $60,000 through attrition and greater efficiencya, he said.

The biggest cut, about $1.5 million, would be in human resources, a broad category including wages, benefits, restructuring, contracts, insurance, partnerships, shared positions, privatizing, and other employee related items.

"Anything that touches people," he said. "The goal to create a package equaling $1.25 million-$1.5 million."

Budget cuts in non-personnel areas would equal about $73,000 through overall belt tightening, a one percent cut across the board, he said.

"It's a very diversified plan," he said. "At the end of the day, we want to meet the target of $3.8 million."

New revenue includes $100,000 from Community Education through increased rentals, fees, and other programs; $300,000-$800,000 from partnerships with private schools, offering their students electives in Clarkston schools; $141,000-$708,000 from open enrollment programs; and $100,000-$250,000 from a possible partnership with a local charter academy, offering them building space in district schools.

The plan also includes program improvements, Ryan said.

Goals include a five-year, $2.6 million technology revitalization plan, funded through existing revenues. It would include more technology infrastructure and use in the classroom bring-your-own-device.

In the 2012 school year, the budget fell short $1.9 million, bringing the fund balance down to $7.9 million.

The 2013 budget deficit was also about $2 million, with another $2 million to create a self-funded health care system, a one-time expense, bringing the fund balance to about $3.9 million.

For 2014, the district budget is expected to fall short about $1.8 million, with a $2 million deficit carried over from 2013.

Challenges include maintaining reasonable class sizes and high quality education in spite of less state funding and enrollment, and more costs for benefits and retirement, inflation, and state mandates, Ryan said.

Board President Cheryl McGinnis urged fellow school board members to think outside the box and take some risks in creating the budget.

"This isn't going to solve itself," McGinnis said.

The school board set a budget workshop for questions and adjustments, 3 p.m., April 15, at the administration building.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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