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School finances reviewed

February 02, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- The school district here is in the same boat as districts everywhere in Michigan right now—waiting to hear what the funding will be from the state this year.

Steve Lenar, the new acting executive director of fiscal affairs for the Brandon Schools, will deal with pressing financial issues both here and in the Holly school district.

"I haven't had a chance to do a full evaluation, but Brandon is no different than other school districts in the county or state," said Lenar this week. "The issue isn't so much this year, but where does the funding take us for next year and what kind of legislation will change the way we do business?"

Lenar himself is a change to the way Brandon does business. The district contracted with him earlier this month and is sharing his services with Holly, where he has been the full-time assistant superintendent of administrative services since 1997.

"I think this is an opportunity for districts to look at collaboration and working together in a different way and still get operations done on a day-to-day basis," Lenar said. "We are trying it out on a short-term basis to see how it goes. I think it has potential."

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 explains that he will take certain days off from Holly to work in Brandon and there will be times that he works additional hours on weekends or nights. He will also communicate via e-mail and will "still be doing the kind of work that needs to be done to keep things current."

"It's a little different than the traditional job," he continued. "One benefit to Holly is they still get all my services and pay a little less for them."

Lenar had a similar arrangement in Bay and Arenac counties, although that was one intermediate school district, smaller in size than the current districts, and 15 years ago.

Jamie Cowan is on an unexplained leave of absence as executive director of fiscal affairs for the Brandon School District. Superintendent Lorrie McMahon declined to elaborate on whether the leave is paid or unpaid, temporary or permanent.

The current financial status of the district, as well as schools of choice, will be discussed during a finance committee meeting set for 6 p.m., Feb. 9, at the central district office, 1025 S. Ortonville Road.

"This meeting is geared toward where we are now and predictions for next year, which we are hearing could be very dire," said McMahon. "While the school aid fund looked healthy, legislators intend to use money for community colleges and universities, instead of K-12 education. We can vote taxes for community colleges and any post- K-12 institution and raise funds, but we have no way to do that for K-12 except raise the number of students."

Lenar notes raising the number of students can be done through schools of choice.

"If we can attract children and keep our programs going, that's great," he said.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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