October 31, 2014

Arenac County schools preparing for future budget cuts

By Lauren Begley
Staff Writer | reporter@arenacindependent.com
Posted

ARENAC COUNTY – With the current state of decreased school funding across Michigan, representatives at the Arenac County school districts say they are doing what they can to offset costs.

Last fall, the state cut its yearly funding by $165 per student, and that decrease, along with proposed cuts for the upcoming school year, is putting a dent in the budgets of schools across the state and Arenac County.

AuGres-Sims Superintendent Anne Doriean said that the state’s budget starts in September, while the Arenac County districts run from July through the following June. Because of this, schools are operating for two months before finding out how much funding they will receive from the state.

Funding is also based on the number of students at a school, and this number is determined by count days in February and September. The amount of money received for the student count is based on a blended formula, Doriean said. The count in September determines 75 percent of the revenue, while the February count makes up 25 percent of the revenue a school will get per student. This means that the count in February 2010 and September 2010 will determine the funding for the 2010-2011 school year, Doriean said.

For the AuGres-Sims school district, the $165 per student cut in funding has led to a loss of $65,938, according to Doriean.

She said the district cut one of two kindergarten programs soon after the funding cut, and it was also looking at areas it can consolidate to save more money.

One way in which the district is merging services is by partnering with neighboring Arenac Eastern School District. Doriean said both AuGres-Sims and Arenac Eastern send students to the Bay-Arenac ISD career center, so the school districts now take the trip together on one bus instead of paying for two separate busses.

The state is looking to cut another $268 per student for the 2010-2011 school year, Doriean said, although that number could change.

Right now, the district is being very cautious with its spending and is waiting to see what the future budget cut holds, Doriean said.

For the Standish-Sterling Community Schools, the $165 cut along with the projected cut next year could reduce funds by $700,000 to $1.2 million, said Standish-Sterling Superintendent Michael Dodge.

Dodge said the district has been responsible with money over the past several years, so it is doing better than some other school districts in the area.

The district has made many cuts in the amount of supplies it is purchasing in order to deal with the budget cuts, and Dodge said he is not looking at reducing the number of staff members.

“There’s only so much you can cut without affecting kids,” Dodge said.

In terms of enrollment, Dodge said there is definitely a declining trend in the county, but Standish-Sterling has been fairly stable because of the school of choice program. The district lost around 15-20 students, but there are students coming into the district in the middle of the school year, Dodge said.

Dodge also said that there is a difference between the general fund money that the district has and the grant money that school districts are receiving through the government. He said grant money usually has strings attached and can only be used for specific purposes.

At the Board of Education meeting on Feb. 8, a PowerPoint presentation outlined the sources of funding for public schools. Sales tax makes up 40 percent, property tax 19 percent, income tax 17 percent, Michigan business tax 7 percent and all other forms of revenue make up 17 percent of the school funding.

The Arenac Eastern School District is doing “OK” for this year, according to Superintendent Bill Grusecki.

Arenac Eastern Schools planned ahead for the $165 per student cut, but the decrease was a little more that what was expected, Grusecki said.

He said the district had planned to get about $7,200 per student after the cut, but it ended up receiving $7,035 per student, putting the district’s loss at about $13,000.

The school district is also seeing a declining enrollment. Over the past few years, around 32 students are graduating and only 15-18 students are enrolling in kindergarten, Grusecki said.

“It’s devastating no matter what size you are,” he said.

Grusecki said the finance committee will be meeting throughout the year to look at options for decreasing costs, and they will begin revising the budget this month. He said they might need fewer staff members to deal with the cuts, but they will be looking at all possible options.

“They need to do something about the budget deficit in Michigan,” Grusecki said.

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