Source: Sherman Publications

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District hammers out budget
Teacher lay-offs, concessions, sagging reserve funds debated

by David Fleet

June 29, 2011

Goodrich-On Monday, the school board voted 6-1 to accept a budget for the 2011-2012 year—yet despite the approval of the new outline of spending and expenses—trustees, teachers and residents are still unsure of the financial future of the district.

"When I see a 1 percent fund balance on the horizon for the district, it's troublesome," said Mike Gardner, board trustee who voted no.. "Personally, we would not live our lives that way."

Gardner's comment came after the Genesee Intermediate School representative presented details of the upcoming budget due by July 1.

The new budget reflects an estimated $15.984 million in revenues with $16.682 million in expenses. About $700,000 is needed from a fund equity account of $2.6 million. A fund equity balance of $1.9 million will be left for the 2012-2013 school year.

"At this rate, with recurring expenses that carry over the next year in three years, we are going to be broke," said Mike Tripp, board president. "If there's no changes in the 2012-13 school year, the fund balance is going to be gone."

According to school officials, 14 of the district's 109 teachers were laid off, along with 4.5 of other support staff. Their last day was June 30.

Other cuts followed a labor contract OK'd in May with a 6-0 vote with the custodians, maintenance, para-pros and transportation labor group. The contract included a 5.5 percent reduction in compensation for the 61 employees, which should save the district about $120,000.

The budget also reflects a 5 percent hike in MESSA health insurance. In addition, the district's 11 administrators/supervisors agreed to a 5 percent pay reduction, said school officials.

"The administrators' reductions came in a variety of ways— from days off without pay, or cuts to benefits," said Tripp. "However they felt it could be done."

Tripp said the reduction in teachers will mean slightly higher class sizes from 26 to 33 students with the higher ratio of students to teachers in the higher grades.

"It's a concern, but not detrimental to students' education," he said.

Tripp added a meeting was scheduled with the Goodrich Education Association.

"We wanted open discussion and to open the contract. We targeted a 5 percent concession," he said. "They were not interested and said, 'See you Sept. 3,' the first day of school. The administrators and CMPT have all made concessions. Right now we need to go looking for another $600,000 in cuts."

Cindy Rivet, 53, an eighth-grade science teacher and president of the GEA did not agree with several admistrative decisions when she addressed the board on Monday night.

Rivet referred to the high number of students in the classroom as potentially deterring the maximum amount of learning, especially in the lower grades.

"Yet we will continue to educate children to tbe best of our abilities, who out perform our neighboring school districts," she said.

"With all due respect to the budget, we have given our fair share. We have had layoffs and retirements."

"I have heard from the community that because teachers won't take the cuts, it's all our fault," she told the board. "I've yet to see where any of the cuts you have proposed are going to help our children. We have taken the cuts. We have family like each and every one of you."

Rivet suggested the board look at other cuts and ways of raising revenue.

Board treasurer Linda Jackson voted for the new budget, but questioned the concession issue.

"This is not an employee problem," she said. "The teachers have a right to draw a line in the sand. It appears that our state government is trying to break public education."

John Fazer, district superintendent, said the district's financial future is not just gloom and doom—rather, it's reality.

"The state has not given enough funding and we are still spending more than we are receiving. We say we hope it gets better—this budget gets us through. I hope our student population increases over the next two years. That's why we asked for 5 percent (concession)—at some point we can give that back."