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School budget reductions OK'd; final vote in June

May 12, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- After months of discussion and difficult decisions, the school board has moved one step closer to finalizing a budget for the 2010-2011 school year, approving a list of cuts expected to save the district more than $3.5 million.

"We have to do this," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "It has been forced on us by the economic conditions of the state of Michigan and the refusal of the legislature to develop a school-funding budget in a timely manner."

The board unanimously approved the list of proposed budget cuts during their May 10 meeting. It was unclear how some of the cuts with the biggest savings— to transportation and custodial services— would be achieved. The board initially planned to save the district more than $300,000 in transportation costs and more than $500,000 in custodial costs by pursuing privatization. While outsourcing the services is still being investigated, Superintendent Lorrie McMahon said the savings might also be achieved through contract negotiations with the existing unions.

Other approved cuts include the permanent lay-off of six teachers, elimination of kindergarten and special education paraprofessionals, reduction of secretary/media/clerk services, reduction of the technology and maintenance budgets, decreased curriculum purchases, and elimination of the police liaison officer.

Other steps taken to save money in the district include an early retirement incentive being taken by 10 teachers this year, a 3 percent cut in compensation accepted by non-union employees, and an increase in athletic pay-to-participate fees. In total, the approved budget amendments save the district $3,505,978. Executive Director of Fiscal Affairs Jamie Cowan expects that with the approval of these reductions, the fiscal year 2011 budget will have revenues of $29,135,062 and expenses of $29,741,605 for a net deficit of $606,543. That deficit will be made up with "rainy day" funds, leaving the district with an 8 percent fund balance of $2,231,796. This figure is short of the board's target of having a 10 percent fund balance and the board is prepared for a second round of reductions if the state reduces per-pupil funding further, or if the student count continues to decrease.

Those cuts could include elimination of 7-12 grade busing, return to half-time kindergarten, a reduction in non-core classes, and a 5-hour day at the high school.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 6 p.m., June 14, at the Board of Education meeting room at central district office, 1025 S. Ortonville Road. The hearing will be followed at 6:30 p.m. by the regular board meeting, during which there will be a vote on the final budget.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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