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School budget— more cuts coming

March 19, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- A harsher winter than normal has resulted in higher than average bills for the school district— utility costs are forecast to be $143,000 more than last year.

Severance of a contract with VARtek, the private company who had been providing technology services for schools also cost the district $72,000. However, these expenses have been partially offset by increases in a state technology infrastructure grant, as well as federal Title I and Title II grant amendments, and at their March 17 meeting, the school board approved a second amendment to the 2013-2014 budget with revenues of $27,811,252 and expenditures of $27,649,250.

The resulting fund balance is expected to be $1,789,960 on June 30, or 6.47 percent— almost twice as good as the original proposed 2013-14 budget, which had a fund balance that was estimated to be at 2.99 percent by the end of the fiscal year. Still, Jan Meek, executive director of finance for the district, is expecting an operating deficit of nearly $700,000 for the 2014-2015 budget, which would result in a fund balance next year of only 3.96 percent if no changes are made.

"The projected budget is our starting point for next year's budget," said Meek. "We will be meeting to look at options for reducing expenditures to balance the budget. Because we made so many expenditure reductions this year and had enrollment losses, we will be focusing on laying off of instructional staff. I don't think it will be many, just a few. Definitely less than 10."

Reductions the district implemented last year included a 7.5 percent wage cut for teachers.

In October, the district learned enrollment had declined by more than 200 students over the previous year, and Meek notes over the past seven years, the district has lost more than 700 students. She is projecting in the 2014-2015 budget that the district will lose another 150 students and coupled with reductions in per-pupil funding from the state, "therein lies the problem."

"We didn't reduce staff this year because the kids were already assigned to teachers," she said. "Reducing staff, and consequently, reducing salaries and benefits will help to balance the budget. We are in no danger of a deficit fund balance. In these times, due to reductions, we would like to maintain a 5 percent fund balance or greater and we think we can do that after these reductions are made... Our number one goal is to stabilize student enrollment. We are buying new buses, new math curriculum, maintaining our buildings and instruction has not been compromised."

The school board will have a special budget workshop meeting at 6:30 p.m., April 28, at central district office, 1025 S. Ortonville Road.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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