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Schools look for 'least impact' cuts

January 19, 2011 - By Laura Colvin

Review editor

Total compensation - salaries and benefits - must be continually evaluated.

That was a large part of last week's message as the Lake Orion Community Schools' Board of Education delved into instructional expenses in an ongoing discussion about the district's 2011-2012 budget.

"We need to look at reductions realistically," said Interim Superintendent Marion Ginopolis. "Our bottom line goal is to make reductions that have the least impact on students, but realistically, once we start chipping away, there will be some instructional reductions."

Although the board has yet to make any decisions on the budget, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Jillynn Keppler talked about a number of "potential discussion areas" at the Jan. 12 regular board meeting.

The basic programming section of the budget's instructional area, for example, covers the gamut of K-12 instructional costs, including enrichment activities.

One area defined for potential discussion - outside salary and benefit evaluation - was textbooks.

"The textbook arena is growing and changing online," said Keppler. "You can't just purchase online books yet, (so) we're still going to get textbooks. But the arena is changing and we want to make sure we keep abreast of the situation."

Extra compensation pay for staff heading up programs like NHS, NJHS, yearbook was also listed as an area of discussion, but Keppler was careful to note it doesn't mean those programs are in jeopardy.

"That pay is contractual, so even if we wanted to, we can't just say 'We're not doing those things any more,'" she said. "We just need to look at more creative ways to support those programs."

The combination of art and music at the elementary level is also back on the table for discussion.

"We are talking about reductions," said Keppler. "These are not desired things."

The basic programming section of the 2010-2011 budget came in at about $36.4 million, with 94.5 percent flowing out through the payroll office in salaries and benefits.

The "added needs" section - which is comprised of special, compensatory and career and technical education - accounted for $11.5 million of the 2010-2011 budget, while "pupil support services" - activities designed to improve the teaching process as well as assess and improve the well-being of students, came in around $6 million.

The district spent about $677,253 last year on "improvement of instruction," an area focused on reviewing professional development and 1.3 million on "educational media services." Listed in that section was potential discussion to consider reducing elementary media specialists.

Another $900,000 went to "instructional staff supervision," for directing and managing instructional services, including program coordination and compliance monitoring.

Finally, $4.5 million went to the "office of the principal" section of the budget, which funds activities performed by principals, assistant principals and others, as well as clerical staff, evaluation of building staff and supervision and maintence of school records.

Keppler said the district has not yet identified a target number for 2011-2012 reductions, citing three significant "unknowns" that make the budget process difficult:

•How much per-student funding will the state provide? Lake Orion's current is $8,302, per pupil, but rumors out of Lansing vary widely. And, noted Keppler, newly inagurated Gov. Rick Snyder has yet to "lay any cards on the table."

•Where will next year's enrollment numbers look like? Current estimates sugges the district will lose about 55 students, but it's too early to know for sure.

•What will the LOCS employee retirement rate look like? Officials are guessing 23-26 percent, but, again, it's too soon to tell. According to Keppler, the district spends over 10 percent of its annual budget on retirement.

The budget is an ongoing process. According to meeting minutes, trustees heard an overview of the budget's General Administration; Business Services; Maintenance and Operations; Transportation; Human Resources; and Community Services sections at the October 27 meeting.

Board members also requested an overall summary and an assumptions chart to identify targets.

According to Board of Education bylaws, the proposed budget must be adopted after a public hearing and prior to June 30 each year.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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