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Brandon finance director 'on leave of absence'

Holly School District director contracted to fill vacancy

January 19, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- Jamie Cowan is on a leave of absence as executive director of fiscal affairs for the Brandon School District.

Superintendent Lorrie McMahon declined to elaborate further, including whether the leave is paid or unpaid, temporary or permanent.

"The district can not discuss leaves of current or past employees," said McMahon. "This is indefinite."

Cowan has been on leave since Jan. 10. McMahon said the district has contracted with Steve Lenar, the assistant superintendent of administrative services for the Holly Area School District since 1997. The two districts will share Lenar's services. Lenar's contract with Brandon calls for him to be paid $23,220 to act as finance director for the district until the end of June.

"He's not a salary employee, he will be paid under third party contract," McMahon said. "Steve is very experienced and has a great reputation. The Michigan School Business Officials recommended him as a very good candidate and Holly thinks a lot of him."

Lenar is also an administrative services consultant since 2008 for the Fowlerville Community Schools. He has a bachelor of business administration degree from Western Michigan University and has residences in Fenton and Traverse City.

He was unavailable at press time for comment.

Cowan, a former Lewis & Knopf audit manager, was hired by the district in 2008 to replace Gary Kelley, who retired. In 2008, the district managed a $413,000 surplus, with total revenue of $30,187,429 and total expenses of $29,773,780. The projected ending fund balance was a healthy $4,256,608, or 14 percent.

However, in 2009, the board faced a budget shortfall of $1.1 million and in 2010, saying the district was facing "a fall off the cliff," Cowan formulated a budget plan approved by the board that included $3.5 million in cuts. The cuts were achieved by offering an early retirement incentive for various staffmembers, as well as lay-offs, reduction of secretary/media/clerk services, reduction of the technology and maintenance budgets, decreased curriculum purchases, and elimination of the police liaison officer position.

After an audit revealed a $500,000 surplus in August, some teachers and paraprofessionals were returned to classrooms. Last month, Cowan warned that the district was again on the edge of the cliff and needed to prepare to make more cuts.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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