Bedford Public Schools’ deficit far less than predicted

System’s audit covers 2012-13


TEMPERANCE — Bedford Public Schools officials received welcome news last week from the district’s annual audit: Last year’s operating deficit turned out to be much smaller than had been projected.

Cooley, Hehl, Wolgamuth, and Carlton, the school system’s Monroe-based accounting firm, reported that the 2012-13 red ink came in at $189,632.

That’s a far cry from the school board's originally adopted budget, which was $1,476,976 in deficit by the end of the last academic year. The audit results were presented to the board by Heidi Galati, Sarah Rafko, and Deborah Sabo, the CPAs who examined the district’s books.

Superintendent Mark Kleinhans appeared pleased by the numbers and said they showed the district was succeeding in emerging from deficit. He joined Bedford schools in July, knowing financial stabilization was a top goal and duty of the school board. The district is in violation of state law while in deficit.

It has been struggling for years to bring spending into alignment with revenue, coping with declining enrollment and cuts in state support. Cost-cutting measures have included the closing of two elementary schools, Smith Road and Temperance Road, although Temperance Road’s closure in June played no role in the improved numbers.

A deficit-elimination plan on file with the Michigan Department of Education binds the district to more cuts, such as the elimination of bus transportation for high school students, but allows the board flexibility in where to make them as long as the dollar amount of the savings is unchanged. The plan balances the budget by the end of the 2016-17 school year.

The deficit in the original 2012-13 budget was revised downward as the school year progressed. As recently as May, it was projected at $1.05 million, consisting of $426,204 spent in excess of revenues and a $626,901 negative balance carried over from earlier years.

Chief Financial Officer Sharon Ramirez, who joined the district in January, said the smaller deficit was attributable to lower employee costs, the result of pay and benefit concessions, especially in medical insurance.

In other business, the board, meeting as the committee of the whole, discussed a proposed contract with the Monroe County Intermediate School District for space in the Smith Road Elementary building for Head Start.

Under the proposed lease, the ISD pays the school district $1,000 per month for the use of two classrooms. The agreement would make the district responsible for custodial services, utilities, maintenance, and trash removal.

Board President Michael Smith expressed concern that the rental payments would not cover these and other costs and said the district should not subsidize the ISD.

On the search for a new principal at Monroe Road Elementary School, Edward Manuszak, assistant superintendent of instruction and student services, said six “strong candidates” had been interviewed and two asked for a second round of questions.

Nov. 22 will be the last day of work for retiring Principal Thea Kirkwood, a 20-year district veteran. Mr. Kleinhans said Thursday’s regular board meeting is to start at 7 p.m. to allow for a reception for Ms. Kirkwood, who became Monroe Road principal in 2008.