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$4.6 million in cuts

Schools finalize 2011-12 budget

June 15, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry

Special Writer for The Review

Painful cuts have been proposed to the Lake Orion School District budget for next year, following a trend among many school districts across the state.

The cuts are a result of a $4.6 million deficit driven by $470 decrease in the state allowance per pupil spending and an increase in the cost of the retirement rate totaling $1.8 million.

"We may ultimately have more revenue to work with but, at this point, this is the (deficit) figure we're looking at," said Superintendent Marion Ginopolis at the June 8 school board meeting. "It's more palatable, but still a large sum of money."

(Earlier this year, before the state finalized its education budget, the district was mulling the possibility of a budget deficit of up to $7 million.)

Assistant Superintendent Jillynn Keppler said the district will address the $4.6 million deficit by a budget reduction proposal of approximately $3 million and tapping into the Lake Orion's fund balance, essentially working capital, for $1.6 million.

"We have a responsibility to be fiscally responsible. This doesn't mean it's easy," Keppler said, referring to budget decisions.

The proposed budget includes a number of staff reductions. Among them, two full-time members of the administrative staff (supervisor of special education and supervisor of learning options), two full-time custodial staff, one high school monitor, nine elementary school teachers, two elementary school media specialists, eight middle school teachers, 1.5 middle school counselors, a police liaison, two full-time secretarial staff and 15 lunch staff associates.

Other budget reductions include reduced salaries for non-LOEA athletic coaches and a schedule reduction for Family School Coordinators. In addition, the district will reduce custodial costs, utilities and repairs to save $300,000; cut technology supplies and maintenance to save $270,000 and decrease building budgets by $10 per student for a savings of $78,000. There also are planned reductions in the general administrative area, including cuts to consulting, purchased services, conferences and athletic supervision costs, totaling $657,000.

To help offset the deficit, the district is raising the price of school lunches by 10 cents (worth $50,000) and increasing the pay-to-play athletic fee by $30 per student annually (worth $30,000).

"The $470 cut in per pupil spending represents the largest cut in public education that has ever occurred in the state of Michigan," said school board Trustee Bob Gritzinger. "We're trying to deal with it on the local level."

The district may have the opportunity to receive a one-time financial incentive worth $770,000, if it meets the requirements for four-of-five "Best Practices" set forth by the state in May. These practices include being the policyholder for insurance, collaborating with other districts, outsourcing non-instructional services to the private sector, paying no more than 90 percent of employee health care and enhancing the transparency of financial matters and student performance.

Provisions of the LOEA teacher contract signed last week include a teacher contribution of 10 percent of their health insurance costs. The school board also has begun discussions on bidding out a variety of services and placing a "performance scorecard" on the district website. Ginopolis thinks the district will ultimately meet the best practices requirements.

"I'm very concerned about the cuts in staff associates, leaving only one in the lunchroom and one on the playground at our elementary schools," said school board Vice President Janet Wolverton. "If the budget increases, we need to move it three. "

The proposed budget is scheduled to be approved at the June 22 school board meeting.

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