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Not showing the money?



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June 23, 2010 - Plenty of questions and few answers, coupled with working almost a year without a contract, prompted Goodrich teachers, family members and even a dog or two, to take action early last week.

Troy Scott, UniServ director for the Michigan Education Association representing the Goodrich Education Association, said an informational picket on Monday night, just minutes before the Goodrich School Board was to meet, was set to not interfere with or distract the students in the school district.

"We waited until the students were out of school to organize the picket," said Scott. "Regarding the school budget, (Goodrich) Superintendent Fazer's information was just not correct—his numbers were disingenuous. First he (Fazer) said the district is $3.4 million short, now it's $1.3 million. When we develop a proposal to present in negotiations, we need accurate information," he said. "Needless to say, the bargaining committee and membership is somewhat confused as to what is correct and what is incorrect."

In addition Scott questioned why, according to reports from the superintendent's office, the district is losing money.

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"I understand Fazer has to take into account many factors, but it seems all gloom and doom," added Scott. "For example, the new school budget indicates a loss of $433 in per pupil funding—others including the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy say that a $118 additional cut in funding is more realistic."

"They are using the worse case scenario," he said. Another example would be that it's a misnomer the fund equity should be 13 percent—that (money) should be used for education of students. You may not want to spend it all, but now's the time to use that money. It's a rainy day fund and this is a hurricane. The Goodrich School District is not broke."

Superintendent John Fazer responded to Scott's contentions.

"Lansing has not made a decision as to what the amount of per-pupil funding is going to be this upcoming school year," said Fazer. "We have projected a $2.3 million deficit. We cut $1.35 million. We are still showing a deficit of $985,000. Even if Lansing decides to give us more than the worst case scenario of $433 less per student, realistically the district would still be $400,000 to $600,000 short."

"The issue is we have a budget deficit in Goodrich and we are asking support from all our labor groups to assist us. Even if the state provides us with the funding that Mr. Scott is alluding to, the district still will deal with a deficit that is approximately $1.8 million. That still leaves $450,000 to find if Mr. Scott's funding predictions come true."

Using the fund balance or reserves can be costly to the district, added Fazer.

"We took $1.55 million from the fund equity account this year," said Fazer. "In addition, the budget we approved takes $985,000 out of the fund balance, reducing the amount down to about 8 percent."

Fazer said that it will cost the district about $100,000 in interest expense to borrow money to tide it over until the first state aid payments come to the district in November.

"I find that (interest payment) unnecessary and wasteful, but that's what happens when the fund equity is drawn down that low. The better situation is use the fund equity to cover the district's needs until the state money comes."

Fazer also said another important variable which is still unknown is the number of students that will be enrolled in the fall. More declines in enrollment due to the sluggish economy will reduce revenues.

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