Bedford Public Schools slowly rising out of red ink

District financial officer lowers this year’s deficit, predicts 2016-17 budget in black


TEMPERANCE — Bedford Public Schools are expected to finish the 2012-13 year with a $1.05 million budget deficit, a shortfall that is slightly less than an earlier forecast of $1.2 million in red ink.

The 2013-14 year looks better still, with the district’s deficit projected to be $766,249, although Chief Financial Officer Sharon Ramirez cautioned that budgets are works in progress subject to multiple revisions.

Ms. Ramirez delivered the numbers to the Board of Education at a budget workshop last week at Monroe Road Elementary School.

The 2012-13 deficit consists of $426,204 spent in excess of revenues, she said, and a $626,901 negative balance carried over from earlier years.

She had some unwelcome data as well. District enrollment was expected to shrink by 100 students next school year.

Bedford’s state funding “is very dependent on our enrollment,” and that has declined 14 percent in the last decade, Ms. Ramirez told the board, blaming the trend on declining birth rates and lost population.

On balance, however, she was upbeat, saying recent years’ painful cost-cutting was showing results.

“We are making traction toward getting ourselves out of deficit,” she told the board.

“Everything we’re doing is going to have a positive effect. It’s just going to take time,” interim Superintendent Jon White said.

Further retrenchment is ahead. Two years ago the board closed Smith Road Elementary School to cut costs, and it is doing the same this year with Temperance Road Elementary, which will cease being a school building after the last day of classes on June 7, for an annual saving of $850,000.

The district has a deficit-elimination plan on file with the Michigan Department of Education that binds it to additional cuts that include the elimination of bus transportation for high school students, switching from trimesters to semesters, and achieving further concessions in wages and retirements.

If these are followed through, the school system will be in the black by the end of the 2016-17 year, with a positive fund balance of $30,802, according to Ms. Ramirez’s projections.

This month, layoff notices were sent to about 15 teachers and other educators for the next school year. Edward Manuszak, the assistant superintendent of instruction and student services, said the number who will be recalled won’t be known until August.

Mr. White said the number recalled would depend on enrollment, and parents of children entering kindergarten often don’t register them until later in the summer.

“Teachers will be recalled only if absolutely necessary,” he said.