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Published: Wednesday, 3/17/2010

Ida schools weigh layoffs to cut budget

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

IDA, Mich. - With more state cuts in per-student funding projected next year, Ida school officials are taking a proactive approach in handling district finances.

Superintendent Marv Dick last week got the go-ahead from the Board of Education to impose a series of precautionary budget cuts that ultimately would hit classrooms in a way the district has not experienced: layoffs.

"We are down to people. Frankly, we didn't get to [laying off] people as quickly as some of our neighbors did," Mr. Dick said.

The nearly $530,000 in recommendations from Mr. Dick to the school board range from buying fewer text books and supplies to eliminating seven full-time teachers and laying off 10 classroom teaching assistants.

"There is a lot to be done between now and the time the cuts could take effect," Mr. Dick said. "This is a changing document. If we get some retirements, then I won't have to layoff some people."

The district plans to receive about $429,000 less from the state next year.

Laying off the full-time teachers and eliminating the teaching assistants would trim about $485,000 from next year's budget.

Other recommendations that could be followed to reduce costs include:

•eliminate one media assistant and in-house suspension supervisor for about $35,000 in savings.

•cut the 3 1/2 guidance counselors to three positions, freeing up about $28,000.

•cut the hours of secretaries and staff to save $36,710.

•reduce or eliminate painting, custodial, and maintenance work in the summer for nearly $14,000 in savings.

•eliminate lunchroom supervision, board-paid field trips, and extracurricular stipends and reduce districtwide textbooks, new equipment, and media center supplies.

The final decision on cuts will be made by school board members, likely in June before the budget for the 2010-11 school year is approved.

"The board gave us the go-ahead to start the process. Ultimately, they will have to approve layoffs and the other reductions," Mr. Dick said.

The district's per-pupil funding from the state was cut $165 in the current academic year. Mr. Dick said schools are being told to expect an additional $268 per-student cut in 2010-11.

Mr. Dick said the school district would dip into its fund balance to balance the budget. Also known as the rainy-day account, it would shrink from $2.7 million to $1.6 million at the end of 2011.

"To their credit, the board has been building up the fund balance over the years in anticipation of what of what we are facing now," he said.

Doug Level, president of the Ida Education Association, the bargaining unit for the district's 104 teachers, said he hoped that a retirement incentive package waiting approval in the Michigan Senate would be attractive to teachers and lessen the impact of any layoffs.

"I would like to see that happen so that no teachers are affected," he said.

The district's contract with the teachers group expired in August, 2008, essentially freezing their wages. Mr. Level said negotiations have stalled with the board demanding concessions that teachers are not willing to accept.

Mr. Level said he believes Mr. Dick is taking a conservative approach in forecasting the district budget outlook. "The board seems to portray everything with doom and gloom. We don't believe all that doom and gloom will come true," he said.



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