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Published: Wednesday, 2/28/2007

Bedford schools seek help addressing fiscal shortfall

BY BENJAMIN
ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bedford Public Schools Superintendent Jon White has scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. March 22 in the Bedford High School auditorium to discuss declining public school funding and its impact on the district.

Mr. White said Bedford school officials, like other districts, are worried about a possible state cut in its per-pupil allowance.

While Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she would not cut the allowance and wants to increase it next year, the state legislature will have the ultimate say.

A $377 million deficit exists in the state's school aid fund, which would equal a $224 per-pupil cut throughout the state.

Mr. White said he will ask residents to help by writing to their state representatives.

He said he will provide parents with templates for the letter.

The guest speaker is scheduled to be Brian Whiston, who is Oakland Intermediate School District's lobbyist in Lansing.

Wes Berger, assistant superintendent of human resources, and Ted Magrum, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, will also give presentations on how the potential cuts could affect their departments.

Mr. Magrum calculates Bedford schools' fund equity balance - its rainy-day fund - will fall by about $1.48 million by June, leaving a balance of about $2.5 million.

The decrease is $178,323 more than he predicted during fall budget projections.

Even without any state budget cuts, Mr. Magrum predicts the district will have to take about $1.6 million from its rainy-day fund in the 2007-2008 school year, and $2.8 million would be needed to offset increased costs and falling revenue in 2008-2009.

"And, although not legally allowed, we would have negative fund equity balance of $1.9 million" in 2009-2010, Mr. Magrum wrote in his spring budget adjustments report.

Mr. Magrum said this will require Bedford to look at significant budget cuts for upcoming years.

He said it's frustrating that all district budgeting hinges on the state's decisions.

"It's driving most business managers crazy. Time is marching on and there is still no decision," he said.

Mr. Berger said the district has lost 102 students - or about 2 percent of the district's student body - over three years, causing a loss of about $700,000 annually.

He said the district also has cut 39 nonteaching staff and 15 teachers over three years.

The cuts, mostly through attrition, were "driven by reductions in state funding," Mr. Berger said.

The Bedford school board has agreed to place a 5-year, 0.5 mill levy on the May ballot to raise money to improve some district buildings.

Without the levy, no money is available for repairs, Mr. Magrum said.

If passed, owners of a $100,000 home would pay about $19 more in 2007 than the $88 they paid in 2006. The levy would bring in about $2.5 million.



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