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Published: Friday, 5/26/2006

Bedford schools hear concerns over budget plan

TEMPERANCE - A workshop meeting to discuss details of the proposed budget for Bedford Public Schools was packed last night by several dozen concerned teachers, staff, and parents.

At issue was what to do about a multimillion-dollar shortfall, which the administration proposes to address in part by eliminating 18 positions, some through layoffs. Some posts are vacant and haven't been filled.

Without reduction, the district faces a $2.58 million shortfall for the 2006-07 school year. It has $2.94 million in fund equity to help curtail the loss.

To make up for the shortfall, Ted Magrum, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, offered a proposal of $1.58 million in budget reductions, with the rest coming from the rainy-day fund. In that scenario, most of the reductions would be from personnel.

"There's often not a good solution, but we are forced to choose a solution that is less damaging," said Superintendent Jon White. "What is happening to Bedford is happening around the state."

The proposed cuts would include 13 teacher positions and a smattering of others, including media specialists and administrative, custodial, nurse, and transportation staff.

But members of the audience expressed dismay that pink slips had already been handed out to teachers before the budget was finalized. Administrators have said the Bedford Education Association required them to do so by May 1.

Others in the audience urged the board to take a larger cut out of the rainy-day equity fund.

"If it's raining, we should be spending that money," said David Neuendorff, a teacher at Monroe Elementary School.

Mr. Magrum explained, in an interview after the meeting: "I'm using a million dollars already. What do you think I'm doing?"

On the issue of suggested cuts at her school, Debbie May, a Smith Road Elementary School teacher whose child attends that school, said: "We're losing our colleagues, our friends. If these changes go into effect, my daughter will no longer be a Smith Road student," she said.

Mike Baumann, regional Uniserv director for the Michigan Education Association, told the board that he understood the plight of schools statewide but was disappointed with the level of dialogue between administration and union officials.

He said that, in the long run, such a relationship would result in legal fees for the district in its effort to resolve contractual conflicts.

After the meeting, Colleen Jan, president of the Bedford Education Association, said meetings with the administration so far had been "meaningless."

The budget will be finalized by vote at its June 27 meeting.



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