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Education

Bedford school budget plan avoids layoffs

LAMBERTVILLE - Bedford Public School administrators laid out a new budget reduction plan last night for the coming school year that would avert formal layoffs and save its fifth-grade band program, despite a $2.3 million projected deficit.

The plan, outlined by acting Superintendent Jon White and his two assistant superintendents, would cut an additional $1.2 million from this year's $42.4 million budget. It also calls for taking just over $1 million from the district's rainy-day account.

The cuts would come from reducing expenses on textbooks, cutting administrative positions through attrition, and reducing some classroom positions, also through attrition. It would also reduce spending on athletics, buildings and grounds, and building-specific expenses.

Mr. White presented a spending reduction plan earlier this month that included laying off nonclassroom support personnel, including the district's reading specialists and lead teachers.

The district avoided a rerun of last year's contentious episode when it passed out 19 pink slips to its certified teachers - all of whom were later recalled.

"We learned last year that a pink slip and a layoff has an impact across the educational community. I think we learned and we listened this year," said Wes Berger, the district's assistant superintendent for personnel. "We will not be pink-slipping; we will not be laying off any of our instructional staff for school year 2005-06."

There will be fewer employees overall, however.

The spending plan would eliminate an assistant principal and a counselor in the high school, leave unfilled an accounting position in the administrative office, and leave unfilled four teaching positions in the elementary schools.

Most of the other changes outlined by Mr. White earlier this month remained unchanged. But he warned that unless the state begins putting more money into public education, those cuts are inevitable.

"A year from now, we will be back doing the same thing, because the state of Michigan has not kept its promise," Mr. White said of about 70 changes made to school funding since Proposal A passed in 1994.

Mr. White said the district still faces five great unknowns: increasing health insurance premiums, increasing pension liability, and three outstanding labor contracts.

"Over the last three years, we've cut $5 million from our budget. We've done this largely without diminishing our educational product," Mr. White said. "What we don't cut this year, we'll be forced to cut next year."

The board will have a budget workshop on May 26 and expects to adopt a formal budget for next year at a meeting on June 23.

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