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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Bedford schools to outline cuts

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Public School officials tonight will detail a series of proposed cuts for the 2005-06 school year that will include layoffs of teachers and other personnel and cuts to some popular programs to offset a projected $2.1 million deficit.

Acting Superintendent Jon White will lay out what he and his fellow administrators are calling their "proactive reduction model" at tonight's regular monthly school board meeting at Monroe Road Elementary.

Mr. White refused to lay out the specifics of the plan that will be presented to the board this evening, but said only that the final decision on cutbacks won't be made until a special board meeting planned for April 21. That date would give the district the time necessary to comply with the 60-day layoff notice contained within its collective bargaining agreements.

He said that the proposed position reductions include teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, administrators, and non-classroom teaching assistants. Also being impacted are expenditures for athletics, extra-curricular activities, and textbooks, though no programs are currently facing complete elimination, Mr. White said.

Ted Magrum, Bedford's assistant superintendent for finance, said the budget he has put together for next year already is banking on a $175-per-pupil increase in the state foundation grant that makes up the basis for the majority of school operating funds in Michigan.

The foundation grant increase, which would be the first in three years, has been promised to schools by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but likely won't get through the legislature until later this summer and could change.

Mr. Magrum's budget projects significant increases for spending on employee health and pension benefits that would eat up all of the $175 increase and more, Mr. Magrum said. Next year's budget also accounts for a projected enrollment drop of 45 students, caused by a large graduating class this year and a smaller incoming class of kindergartners. If enrollment numbers stabilize, some cuts could be restored later, Mr. Magrum said.

The proposed budget also assumes taking at least $1 million from the district's rainy day fund, which Mr. Magrum said will be completely exhausted at the current rate by 2008.

Complicating the district's budgeting process is its ongoing inability to reach contract terms with its largest employee group, the Bedford Education Association, which represents more than 300 teachers, nurses, and other certified personnel.

Two previous tentative contract agreements with the BEA have been rejected by BEA members. Those rejected proposals included a shorter school year and a one percent salary increase.

Wes Berger, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, said layoffs would likely be necessary among teachers because "we have the fewest retirements this year that we've had in years.

Four BEA members indicated by March 1 an intention to retire at the end of this year, making them eligible for a $1,000 bonus, Mr. Berger said.

Additional retirement incentives is among the benefits the BEA has consistently sought in negotiations.

While the administration's plan is designed as a blueprint, board of education members will have the ultimate say on how the district balances its budget for next year.



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