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Published: Wednesday, 7/1/2009

Summerfield budget cuts not as deep as board had feared

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

PETERSBURG, Mich. - Buoyed by some good budget news, Summerfield Schools officials last week passed a budget for the coming school year that resulted in only one teacher reduced to part-time.

Like nearly every school district in the state, Summerfield Schools have been hard hit by Michigan's budget woes.

The district in April made the cost-cutting measure of moving seventh and eighth graders into the high school.

Superintendent Jack Hewitt said budget projections made a year ago estimated that the district would end the fiscal year with a nearly $370,000 deficit. That deficit was reduced to about $165,000.

"Once the audit is completed, it could be better than that," Mr. Hewitt said. "We spent less than anticipated on supplies and equipment and we budgeted on bus fuel. We also had additional revenue from the ISD for special education that we didn't anticipate."

The budget the board approved for the 2009-2010 school year was $6.6 million and eliminated the positions of two teachers through attrition and reduced one instructor to part-time.

"We sent pink slips to seven people. We have called them all back except for the one half-time person," Mr. Hewitt said.

The district borrowed about $160,000 from fund equity, or savings, to balance the budget, which the school board members were required to do before the end of June.

The district will be left with nearly $742,741 in savings. Mr. Hewitt said the district had about $1.6 million in the savings account about six years ago.

"We have done what we needed to reduce expenditures. We also have taken money from fund equity and will continue to take from there for the next year or two. We are hoping the Michigan economy will turn around. The district will likely continue to take from the equity fund until the economy bottoms out," he said.

Mr. Hewitt said the budget was approved in anticipation that the district will receive $110 less per pupil from the state.

"We have budgeted conservatively," he said.

In September, the district's seventh and eighth graders will attend classes with the upper grades, affecting about 120 students.

The move to consolidate the grades will save the district $200,000 to $250,000 a year. However, the district will take on additional salary expenses through the implementation of full-day, daily kindergarten for next year. Some of that cost will be offset with the elimination of the midday bus runs for a $25,000 savings, Mr. Hewitt said.

"We made the decision in March to go with the full day kindergarten program. We are going to stick with it," he said.



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