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Education

Bedford Public Schools approves deficit plan

TEMPERANCE -- High school transportation and another school building could be on the chopping block at Bedford Public Schools, according to a deficit-elimination plan its board unanimously approved Tuesday night.

The plan, which Michigan requires of all schools that adopt a budget deficit, is aimed at bringing the strapped district's spending into balance over the next two years.

According to the proposal, the district would, among other measures, call for $1.46 million in employee concessions, the elimination of high school transportation, trimming $250,000, and for privatizing custodial, food service, and transportation workers, to save $500,000.

They also would close a building or increase class sizes for a savings of $850,000, eliminate a liaison officer from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office to cut $80,000, and find less costly medical insurance for employees, which would save $800,000.

If these and other reductions were implemented, the district would end the 2012-2013 year with a $44,238 surplus, according to projections laid out Tuesday night by Superintendent Ted Magrum.

That represents a big change from the $2.36 million deficit projected for the end of the 2011-2012 academic year if nothing is done.

The school board adopted the deficit budget in June knowing that more cuts were on the way.

It trimmed spending by $2.4 million last school year. Those cuts included the closing of Smith Road Elementary School and laying off 16 elementary teachers.

The deficit-reduction plan must be submitted to the Michigan Department of Education by Thursday.

Mr. Magrum emphasized that the district could change its plan along the way.

He described it as "a road map to eliminate our deficit in two years.

"There can be alternative routes during the trip to get to the final destination. The Board of Education has the flexibility to change the [plan]."

No specifics of the plan were provided, including which school building could be closed.

Board member Shawna Smith asked what the consequences would be if the district failed to submit a plan.

Mr. Magrum said the state would withhold funding or appoint an emergency manager to run the district.

The school system is beset by rising costs, declining state funding, and a shrinking enrollment.

Enrollment is expected to decline by 120 students in the next school year. This alone will reduce Bedford schools' state funding by more than $820,000.

Further compounding Bedford's woes, the state is expected to shrink its payments to the district by $470 a pupil.

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