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Bedford school board proposes budget cuts

Closing another building included in plan sent to state

TEMPERANCE -- Last week was busy for the Bedford Board of Education.

During two meetings, it adopted a deficit-elimination plan that was due at the Michigan Department of Education by Thursday, hired an assistant principal for the junior high school, and approved a new contract with the district's secretaries.

Superintendent Ted Mag- rum emphasized that the proposals in the deficit elimination plan were not set in stone. They include eliminating high school transportation, closing another school building, and privatizing some work now done by district employees.

"The Board of Education has the flexibility to change the [plan]," he said. "The critical focus is that we still have to be out of a deficit fund balance by June 20, 2013. Therefore we all must remember that while we have the option to eliminate a budget action or actions, we have to replace the dollars associated with the budget actions by implementing a new budget action or increase the savings on an existing budget action."

The plan, which Michigan requires of all schools that adopt a budget in deficit, is aimed at bringing the district's spending into balance over the next two years.

In June, the board adopted a $41.16 million operating budget that leaves the district with a $2.36 million deficit at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

The shortfall is projected even though the board also approved $2.4 million in cuts last year, including closure of Smith Road Elementary School and layoffs of 16 elementary teachers.

Abolishing high school busing would save an estimated $250,000, and hiring private companies to do the work of custodians, food service personnel, and remaining transportation staff would trim costs by $500,000, according to the plan.

Other proposals and their savings include concessions from employees ($650,000), closing another school building or increasing class sizes ($850,000), switching to trimesters and eliminating four to five teachers ($300,000), eliminating a liaison officer from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office ($80,000), and finding less costly medical insurance than that provided through the Michigan Educational Special Services Association, which was established by the state's teachers union ($800,000).

Board member Wayne Meehean asked Mr. Magrum if closing the administration building and moving its personnel into the Smith Road elementary building would make sense.

Mr. Magrum said he had looked into this and the saving would not be significant unless the administration building could be sold for a decent price.

The board adopted the deficit elimination plan at a special meeting on a 6-0 vote, with President Michael Smith absent because he was on vacation.

The school board hired Kim Maag-Eltschlager as an assistant principal at the junior high at its regular meeting two days later. She'll be paid $82,639 for the 2011-2012 school year, according to her one-year contract. The school will have two assistant principals because it is getting an additional 400 students as a result of redistricting and the closing of Smith Road Elementary. About a third of the junior high's staff will be new to the building next year.

The vote here was 4-2, with Mr. Meehean and Shawna Smith voting no. Ms. Smith noted that Ms. Maag-Eltschlager was well qualified but said she believed hiring a second assistant principal was a bad idea given the district's financial situation.

The 35 members of the Bedford Secretarial Association will take a 7.5 percent cut in their compensation package under their new one-year contract. They are paid $12 to $16 an hour.

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