PETERSBURG -- With 800 students and a $6.1 million annual budget, Summerfield Schools is one of the smallest school systems in Monroe County.
However, the rural school district isn't isolated from the financial problems facing larger school districts in the county. It too is dealing with budget problems because of proposed legislation needed to implement school funding changes proposed in Gov. Rick Snyder's budget plan.
Summerfield Schools last week joined the growing list of area school districts, fearful of what the legislation could do to school funding, to send pink slips to teachers. Eight teachers were sent layoff notices after the action was approved by the Board of Education. Superintendent Jack Hewitt said the layoffs were a procedural move to protect the budget and comply with contractual requirements with the teachers' union.
"I fully expect that most, if not all, of those teachers will be recalled by July 1," Mr. Hewitt said. "There is an outside chance that we may be reducing the elementary staff by one teacher and possibly there could be two high school teachers who would have a reduced schedule. They could become part-time instead of full-time."
The school district projects it will have up to $300,000 less for operations next year because of governor's plan to divert money from the school aid fund to community colleges and universities and an expected increase in teacher retirement rates.
Mr. Hewitt said the district would take money from its fund equity account, or savings, to balance the budget, which must be approved by June 30. The district recently negotiated a new contract with its 38 teachers, yielding concessions on health care while giving the employees a slight increase in pay.
Under the two-year contract retroactive to July 1, the teachers agreed to a one-time payment equal to 1 percent of their salary and a 1 percent pay increase for the 2011-12 school year. The contract with the district also has the teachers paying a higher premium for their prescription drugs.
Last year, the district sent pink slips to 11 teachers, but ended up recalling 10 employees and reducing the other teacher to part-time. Mr. Hewitt said the layoffs have become an annual issue for board action in the spring.
"Unfortunately, it is the same eight people every year," he said.
Monroe Public Schools last week sent pink slips to all its 343 teachers and 19 administrators to satisfy requirements with its union groups to give 60-day notification on layoffs. The district said the measures were needed to sort out budgeting for next year while it awaits legislative action in Lansing.
Bedford Public Schools in March sent pink slips to 13 teachers and likely will add more teachers to that layoff list next month. The layoffs of eight teachers were approved last week by the Ida Public Schools Board of Education. Superintendent Rick Carsten said three of the laid-off teachers were hired last year knowing they were temporarily replacing employees who took one-year leaves of absence.