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2011-2012 schools budget approved

After their final meeting as elected members of the Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education (June 22), Bob Gritzinger, Janet Wolverton, Kelly Weaver and Tiffany Weber-Phillips posed with a cake in their honor. photo by D. Rush (click for larger version)
June 29, 2011 - It is official: the 2011-2012 Lake Orion Community Schools budget was approved.

The big last act of the "old" board of education, consisting of president Mary Jo Burchart, vice president Janet Wolverton, treasurer Jim Weidman, secretary Tiffany Weber-Phillips and trustees Steve Drakos, Bob Gritinger and Kelly Weaver was a unanimous vote to accept a budget with $80,173,093 in expenditures -- $4,411,844 over revenues that are expected to come in next year.

To cover the shortfalls, the district will tap into its state mandated rainy-day account (Fund Balance). The Fund Balance at the end of the 2010-2011 school year is projected to be $13,061,500. By the end of the 2011-2012 school year, the balance will dip to $8,649,656 -- or 10.8 percent of the school's entire budget.

According to a power-point presentation by schools superintendent Marion Ginopolis, the Fund Balance has been reduced over the past years. The district had a high mark year in fund balance in 2008, with $18,532,625 socked away, representing 25.5 percent of the budget. In 2004, the Fund Balance was $9,336,160, or 14.5 percent of the entire budget.

Ginopolis told the board, with the Fund Balance the district can meet obligations, "Through next year." Adding, she wouldn't feel safe about relying on a Fund Balance the following year. "Which is why we need to revise our strategic plans for the short term and long term," she said.

She added in the future, districts that are "not viable" (without sufficient fund balances) will be "taken over" by state emergency financial managers.

Ginopolis said one way the district can save money in the future is to share services with other districts. Currently, Lake Orion is working with both Oxford and Clarkston districts, as well as with the Oakland Intermediate School District. The district is also working with Lake Orion Village, Orion Township and the Orion Township Library to contain costs for all the entities, when ordering supplies.

This year, the district received concessions from the Lake Orion Education Association (teachers union). The major saving for the district was for teachers to pay 10 percent of their health care costs.

As part of reducing the 2011-2012 budget, 40.6 staff, including 17.6 teaching positions were eliminated a few weeks ago. At the June 22 meeting, it was announced due to attrition, five teachers who were laid off, have been recalled.

In the new budget, technology services increased 112.2 percent over the previous budget, to $3,013,200. This increase will lay the foundation for wireless computer connectivity for staff and students. It includes infrastructure, software, hardware, instruction and service.

Near the end of the budget discussions, Trustee Gritzinger made a point of the amount of budget reductions the board has made in the last ten years. From 2000 to 2011, the budgets were reduced $16 million -- and the latest budget had another $3 million cut.

* * *

The new board of education will meet for the first time, officially at the regularly scheduled July 13 board meeting. That meeting is called the "organizational" meeting. For members of the community who wish to attend, the meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the board offices at the corner N. Lapeer and Church streets.

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: don@dontrushmedon.com
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