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School budget deadline approaches

June 18, 2014 - With about two weeks left to approve the 2014-2015 school budget, the Clarkston Board of Education members still have questions.

Board Secretary Craig Hamilton asked if administration could remove a technology staff restructuring from the proposed budget.

"Personnel changes, eliminations, new positions, I'd like to come before the board as separate items," Hamilton said.

The budget includes a new position combining technology director and network administrator; moves two technology support employees to technician positions; adds a help desk; and reassigns a technology support employee to technology instruction coordinator.

Salary savings compared to the 2013 budget would be $73,516, with total savings of $148,214, said Mary Beth Rogers, executive director for business services, at the June 9 school board meeting.

Last year's budget eliminated the salary of the district's director of technology position, which in effect removed the position. Hamilton said the school board should have had a more direct impact on the decision.

"I'm just trying to make a suggestion to make it easier and more comfortable moving forward," the secretary said. "I'd be more comfortable if we were doing this separately."

Rock said he appreciated the suggestion.

Board President Rosalie Lieblang said the technology director position may need to be restored.

"The combined position concerns me," she said.

A pending technology report could clarify the staffing situation, and could be addressed in a budget amendment, Lieblang added.

Rock said recommendations were based on an analysis of needs.

"We're working as hard as we can to be efficient," Rock said. "This is our recommendation based on external agency and ourselves. I don't recommend waiting. We need a permanent plan to move forward. This is our best thinking."

They could get a different perspective, though, he added.

Board Vice President Susan Boatman wants to clarify the process, before moving forward with it.

"We want to know where the money is going and if it's a good thing to put in the budget. We may need to put more in," Boatman said. "But to hire someone next week, we really haven't approved it yet."

The board was not asked to approve positions or salaries, said Trustee Cheryl McGinnis.

"This is a proposed budget. I respect the desire for more information," McGinnis added. "I can support this recommendation for a department doing a great job with a department half full."

Board Trustee Steve Hyer said the recommendation from administration makes perfect sense.

"We're talking about a small dollar amount to increase efficiency," Hyer said.

The budget also adds half a full-time equivalency centralized enrollment and shared services position, with a $56,100 salary, covered by shared services revenue; and adds a year-round front receptionist, $16,400.

The total 2015 budget has $76.5 million in revenue and $75.7 million in spending, including a revenue increase of $252,000 from Oakland Intermediate School District for special education; $90,798 more in federal IDEA funding; and $250,000 more in shared service revenue. The governor has proposed $110 more per student, which would mean $880,000 more for Clarkston, but an anticipated loss of 70 students would mean a loss of $500,000. The budget also includes $78,000 less in special education funding from the state; $200,000 less in At Risk carry over and deferred revenue; and $515,000 in savings from employee furlough days.

Speaking during public comment, Clarkston Education Association President Brooke Davis disputed the term "furlough."

"That gives the wrong impression, that we don't go to work on those days," Davis said. "We do go to work. They did not reduce the days, just reduced pay. I'd rather you call it something else, like 'unpaid work day.'"

Fund balance would increase from $4.8 million to $6.05 million, 7.99 percent of expenditures. About $3.27 million is committed to critical needs and other programs to be determined by the school board.

Clarkston's budget must be approved by the end of the month. The school board meets at 7 p.m., June 23, at the administration building, 6389 Clarkston Road.

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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