TEMPERANCE - Eliminating the fifth-grade band, laying off teachers, and cutting nonclassroom positions such as nurses, lead teachers, and counselors, are among the savings options being considered by Bedford Public Schools to plug an estimated $4 million hole in next year's budget.
The board of education last week was presented with a budget reduction plan that targets $2,275,000 million in cuts in the 2009-2010 budget, which must be approved before the end of June.
Superintendent Jon White told board members that Michigan's struggling economy and the related loss in revenue into state coffers will likely result in per-pupil funding remaining unchanged from last year.
"Essentially we are experiencing a recession within a recession," he said.
Like nearly every district in the state, Bedford schools are being hit with rising fuel costs and utility expenses and increased costs to fund the teacher's retirement fund and employee health care and wages.
The district is forecasting that next year it will have 150 fewer students, the same drop in enrollment as last year.
Among the budget moves being considered:
•Laying off five classroom teachers to save $340,781.
•Saving $250,000 by freezing textbook purchases.
•Eliminating positions of two retiring teachers at a savings of $208,628.
•Saving $121,409 by eliminating the fifth-grade band.
•Cutting a number of nonclassroom positions such as lead teachers, student support coordinators, and media specialists for a $587,263 savings.
•Eliminating a liaison officer, saving $80,000.
Mr. White said the considerations to cut programs and eliminate positions would have the "least painful" impact on students in the classroom.
"Those are not recommendations at this point. But it gives you a sense of what has to be done to come to terms with our deficit," he said. "These are considerations. Everything is on the table."
School officials sent pink slips two weeks ago to about 40 teachers - all the district's nontenured instructors - as a precautionary measure to comply with union contracts and protect the budget.
Mr. White said the administration had begun the process of recalling teachers who would be needed for the next school year.
"Will there be layoffs? Yes," he said at the meeting.
Ted Magrum, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said the district recently learned that health insurance for employees will increase 14.6 percent next year.
Mr. Magrum said the financial problems of the district are being compounded by flattened state revenue and rising expenses. The projection for the decline in enrollment will cost the district more than $1.1 million this year.
"We are probably in the worst financial shape that I have seen since I have been here," he said.
Even with $2.275 million in budget cuts, Mr. Magrum said the district is looking at taking more than $1.9 million from savings to balance the 2009-2010 budget, and the projections for 2010-2011 indicate that $3.5 million in additional cuts will be needed.
"That is difficult after cutting over $10 million from the budget in the last seven years. I take pride in balancing the budget. But I am running out of items to cut," he said.
If the economy doesn't improve and per-pupil funding declines, Mr. White warned that the district could consider closing an elementary school and redistricting students, eliminating the early kindergarten program, and reducing bus transportation.
"That could provide us with significant savings," he said.
Other future cost-cutting moves that could be implemented include eliminating extracurricular programs, reducing counselors at the upper grades, and having fewer assistant principals at the high school and junior high.