TEMPERANCE -- With the ratification of a concessionary contract for teachers, Bedford Public Schools are on track for a balanced budget by 2015.
Chief Financial Officer Jamie Cowan reported at last week's board of education meeting that smaller projected deficits have eased the district's path to financial stability. She said the expected 2012-13 shortfall was $906,470, down from $1.47 million. She forecast that 2013-14 spending would exceed income by $387,038, down from $778,717, and that the district would be in surplus by $29,707 by June 30, 2015.
She stressed that the wild card in her calculations was enrollment. If it declined more than expected, the district could be deeper in the red. Enrollment has dropped by 10 percent in the past eight years.
Because of the bad economy, families moved to take jobs elsewhere, aggravating the enrollment decline. The district also has suffered from cuts in state funding to about the level in the 2005-06 year.
The teachers' contract is credited with helping the budget forecast, but officials did not have a savings figure. Before the agreement was ratified last week, the district aimed for $923,000 in concessions from the teachers, who are represented by the Bedford Education Association.
The new contract includes a 1 percent pay cut next year and doubles medical insurance deductibles -- to $1,000 in the case of family coverage. The teachers also lose three paid days and will not be paid for the first inclement weather day.
The new contract runs through 2015 and covers 285 employees. The previous contract expired June 30, 2010, and since then both sides repeatedly returned to the bargaining table to try to come to an agreement.
A fact finder brought in this year was unable to move the process, and the district was about to declare an impasse and impose a contract when a final round of negotiations was held and an agreement was reached.
"It would have been much easier to give up, but both parties stayed with it," Mike Smith, school board president, said.
If the Michigan Legislature does not change state pension law to cut costs for public employers, the teachers will get another unpaid day under the contract. Pay will gradually be restored in the second and third years of the contract, but there will be more furlough days.
Colleen Jan, the union's president, said teacher pay by 2016 will be where it was in 2010. Teacher salaries start at $34,908 and climb to $70,263 for those with specialist degrees.
In other action, board members bade farewell to Jonathan Whan, the district's assistant superintendent for instruction and student services, who is resigning to become superintendent of the Grant Public Schools 30 miles north of Grand Rapids, Mich. His last day of work is Tuesday. The district is advertising for his replacement.
Mr. Whan told the board he had learned a lot in his two years with the Bedford schools and expressed confidence the district would make a strong recovery from its current financial problems.
Board member Joe Gore said, "Jonathan, your new district just got a lot better."