TEMPERANCE -- The Bedford Board of Education last week again approved a deficit-elimination plan to be sent to the Michigan Department of Education.
This is the second time around for the board. In August, it approved sending the same set of cost-cutting measures. The plan was required by the state after the board adopted an operating deficit that left the district with a $2.36 million shortfall at the end of the school year. The district has received neither a rejection nor an approval.
The first plan would close the spending gap in two years, as the state normally requires. The plan approved last week would give the district four years to bring spending into alignment with revenues.
The vote was 6-0, with member Shawna Smith absent. Board members took the action reluctantly, after Superintendent Ted Magrum explained that not doing so could result in the state installing an emergency manager, which would mean the loss of local control.
Absent a deficit elimination plan, the state also might withhold funding, he said. Lansing sends more than $30 million a year to the school system.
"This plan isn't perfect, but it's the best we have now to balance the budget," board President Michael Smith said.
The cuts include concessions from teachers, elimination of high school busing, closing another school building, elimination of one of the two Monroe County sheriff's deputies assigned to the schools, and outsourcing of nonteaching jobs such as bus drivers, bus aides, and custodians.
These cuts would be in addition to the $2.4 million in reductions the district has implemented, including closure of Smith Road Elementary School and layoffs of 16 elementary teachers.
About 100 people, most of them employees of the district, packed the meeting at Monroe Road Elementary. Also attending were state Reps. Dale Zorn of Ida and Rick Olson of Saline, both Republicans, who listened as the district's plight was blamed on cuts in state funding for education.
Board member Joe Gore said, "The state has created this mess and it has rolled downhill to us."
Colleen Jan, a junior high teacher and president of the Bedford Education Association, the union representing teachers, said the state's recommended best practices for reduced spending "means penury" for school employees.
The cut most frequently criticized was that of the sheriff's deputy from the district's contingent of two resource officers. The deputies, Randy Sehl and Randy Krupp, were described as highly regarded figures in the schools who maintained order when needed and were role models.
Beatrice Ponke, a paraprofessional at the junior high with two children in the high school, said bullying and fighting were common and "we need to have the presence of those two officers."
The two legislators listened but could offer little comfort.
Mr. Zorn said funding was reduced because the state had been dealing with a deficit of its own. He said Michigan had lost 1 million jobs in the past decade and its population was shrinking.
Mr. Olson noted that Michigan's pension system for public employees had $46 billion in unfunded liabilities and the state planned to cap contributions by employers.