November 24, 2014

SSCS facing $1 million in cuts

By James Kuch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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STANDISH — The Standish-Sterling Central Community Schools district will be operated on a frozen budget for the remainder of the 2011 school year, and may face up to $1 million in cuts for next year’s budget, based on Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts.

Superintendent Michael Dodge said that the district will be cutting $100,000 in a number of different costs immediately, and anything purchased by the district will now go against a zero-based budget.

“We are going forward with the philosophy that we have nothing,” he said. “If we are buying anything, it better be pretty darn important. We are facing about $1 million in cuts.”

Dodge said that he came to the school board two years ago and suggested that the district needed to be more responsible with its budget.

“I told them that we need to stop spending and become more fiscally responsible,” he said. “The district has never been used to that in recent times. I was concerened about that two years ago; I was concerned one year ago, and now I think that it is finally hitting home.”

There are a number of costs Dodge said that the district simply cannot control.

“An increase in retirement costs and we have has loss of students,” he said.

District business specialist Mike Waldie said that payment for state pensions, at 27 percent, will cost the district around $558,000 next school year.

“For every $100 we pay (an employee), we have to pay $20.66 to the state for retirement,” Waldie said.

Dodge said he is expecting that the state will also will cut $417 per student. Waldie estimated that that would result in a $813,000 loss.

“Every time we hear from the state, they are taking and taking. These are things that we don’t control,” Dodge said. “We can control how much paper we use, how many textbooks we buy, if we hire staff or not. We can’t control when the state comes in and says we are going to take $417 a person.”

Dodge said that the difference between a school district and a regular business is having a financial routine.

“We don’t know from week to week and day to day how things are going to go,” he said. “You finally get an idea of how things will be and the budget gets cut again.”

Dodge said that the school board is going to have to make decisions about position and program cuts.

“We are dealing with an oxymoron, in a sense,” he said. “We are supposed to educate our (children) in an effective way, but more money is being cut and higher standards are being given out.”

Dodge said that the district has been lucky in the past, having a community backing the schools, but he added that everything around the American school system is changing.

“I think (school districts) have gone through the time of plenty, and it’s gone,” he said. “I don’t think that it will ever be the same. I think the educational community at large, for some reason, does not want to continue to give.”

Dodge said that the school district is looking to begin an ad hoc committee the help get input for the community.

“Things are coming in and we are getting ideas from different areas,” he said. “We want to look at how we can avoid (negatively) affecting our students.”

The ad hoc committee would feature the district’s financial committee, administration, union leaders, community members, as well as Dodge and Waldie.

“I have some people in mind, including some parents,” Dodge said. “This group would have input on how these things will impact our school district. This gives us a starting point for things that we can save or cut.”

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