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Published: Tuesday, 3/22/2005

Monroe schools ask board for deeper cuts

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Monroe Public Schools officials are hoping its school board will approve the majority of its recommended budget cuts at a meeting scheduled for tonight in order to quickly deal with a projected $3.5 million deficit.

"We're hoping that's the direction they want to go. We need to know where we stand," said Superintendent David Taylor.

The board met last night at a workshop to discuss the proposed budget cuts.

Earlier this month, the board approved cutting weekend bus trips for athletic events, decided not to replace an administrative assistant who is retiring, and cut its technology budget by $200,000, saving about $252,000. The board also raised athletic participation fees from $50 to $150 a year for high school athletes, and from $25 to $50 for middle school athletes, which will add about $130,000 in revenue.

But the key and most controversial budget-cut recommendation - not hiring new teachers to replace the 21 teachers expected to retire at the end of the school year, has yet to be dealt with by the board.

Mr. Taylor said that decision could save the school system $1.9 million.

The plan calls for other certified employees, such as counselors, to move into the vacant slots. But critics are concerned about the loss of counselors who become teachers, because they won't be replaced.

Mr. Taylor said if a qualified person can't be found on staff to replace a retired teacher, then they will hire someone from outside the system. But if that happens, another teacher with low seniority likely will be laid off.

"I have no way of knowing what's going to happen until I put together the budget after the board makes its decisions," Mr. Taylor said.

School officials also have proposed cutting the system's custodial and maintenance staff, eliminating nongrant funding of the system's teacher aides program, and cutting supplies purchases.

"All of that is about $3 million [in budget cuts], so we need another half million," Mr. Taylor said.

Other possibilities include eliminating bus service to students who live within 1 1/2 miles of school, and perhaps eliminating transportation for high school students altogether.

The system's budget deficit, which has been growing for several years, has come about from decreased state funding and rising expenses, school officials say.

Asking Monroe voters for a tax levy to raise more money is not an option since Michigan voters approved Proposal A in 1994, which raised the state's sales tax from 4 percent to 6 percent and drastically reduced property taxes as a new way of funding public schools in the state. The plan also restricted new property tax levies to money for building schools.

Mr. Taylor said the suggested cuts, if approved, will go into effect in the 2005-06 school year. He said the sooner the decision is made, the easier it will be to plan for next year - which is why he hopes the board will act tonight.

Contact George Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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