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Good news, bad news for schools



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June 01, 2011 - Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Dr. William Skilling announced some good news and bad news regarding cuts to the school aid fund at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, May 23.

The good news was Governor Rick Snyder is proposed to reduce the cut to $269 per student instead of the proposed $470 cut.

The bad news in order to qualify for the $269 cut schools must meet four of the five "best practices" laid out by Gov. Snyder in order to qualify for the reduction, and in even more depressing news, the reductions might not take place until next year, which makes budgeting right now even more difficult.

This leaves OCS in the exact same spot they were in before - figuring out how to balance the budget based on a cut of $470 per student.

"By law, we have to get a budget approved by June 30 for the next school year," Skilling said. "So we have to go into that budget process and approval making assumptions. We do it every year and this year will be no different."

According to Skilling, schools would not see a $201 reduction in per pupil funding until they have met four of the five "best practices," which include the district becoming the health care policy holder for the district, having consolidation services within the district, competitive bidding for all non-instructional contracts, employees contributing 10 percent towards their health care and having a district dashboard showcasing information like test scores, dropout rates, employee contracts, etc.

Skilling added the district must have four of the five best practices in place by 2012.

However, he did not know when schools would be eligible for the money once the requirements were met.

"I don't know when they are going to release the money," Skilling said. "Do they release it when you meet four of the five criteria? Or in September of this year, or in February, April, or May of next year? There are a lot of unanswered questions as to how this is going to be administered and what the procedures are."

He said the best practice the district could have a problem with is becoming the health care policy holder for employees.

"Right now, our teachers and administrators have MESA and I am sure the teachers will want to keep the MESA," Skilling said.

Having employees agree to pay 10 percent into their health care could also pose a challenge as well Skilling said, but that could turn into a moot point if current legislation proposing all state employees pay 20 percent into their health care gets passed.

Skilling said they should know if employees will have to contribute 20 percent of their health care by the end of the month when the state budget is expected to be finalized.

He also noted the district has "no desire to do any competitive bidding or privatize any service."

"We already negotiated last year new contracts that we feel that are competitive in the free market," Skilling said. "So there is no economic gain for us to do this."

As of last week's board of education meeting, Skilling indicated the district was looking at a $5 million deficit for the upcoming budget.

The $5 million does not include health care contributions for retirees.

However, he said the deficit could decrease, pending on what happens when the state finalizes their budget at the end of the month.

"If that happens, that helps a lot in having those unanswered questions answered," he said. "But we are still going to have to make assumptions...and we are going to use the original assumptions. Until it (state budget) is signed and approved, we are not changing our assumption. After that we are going to make adjustments according to what was passed."

In order to balance the budget, Skilling is looking to cut 1.25 million from operational costs, getting 1.25 million in employee contributions, generating 1.25 million in revenue and spending 1.25 from the fund balance, which is currently at $5.8 million.

"The key in all of this is that we will not be cutting student programs or opportunities," he said. "We will get a balanced budget without our students being adversely affected in any way."

In previous year's budget discussions, the district did not include any assumptions for additional revenue from student growth.

Skilling said to expect the same "conservative approach" even though the district has grown each of the past four years.

assumptions...and we are going to use the original assumptions. Until it (state budget) is signed and approved, we are not changing our assumption. After that we are going to make adjustments according to what was passed."

In order to balance the budget, Skilling is looking to cut 1.25 million from operational costs, getting 1.25 million in employee contributions, generating 1.25 million in revenue and spending 1.25 from the fund balance, which is currently at $5.8 million.

"The key in all of this is that we will not be cutting student programs or opportunities," he said. "We will get a balanced budget without our students being adversely affected in any way."

In previous year's budget discussions, the district did not include any assumptions for additional revenue from student growth.

Skilling said to expect the same "conservative approach" even though the district has grown each of the past four years.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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