Saline school board passes budget with $2.6M in staff cuts
Members of the Saline Area Schools Board of Education passed a budget for fiscal year 2013 outlining about $3 million in cuts Tuesday.
However, that $48.6-million budget, which calls for laying off 16 to 17 certified staff, two administrators and possibly privatizing bus drivers, janitors and other support staff, could change as soon as Wednesday evening.
AnnArbor.com I Danielle Arndt
The board recessed at about 7 p.m. to wait for the district’s attorney to arrive at 8 p.m., at which time the board entered into closed executive session for the purpose of discussing contract negotiations with collective bargaining units.
The district’s three unions — Saline Area Schools Administrators Association, the Saline Education Association and Saline Education Support Personnel — all have contracts that expire Saturday.
Upon returning from closed session after about an hour, the board unanimously approved its budget for 2012-13, as well as set a special meeting for 5 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting will be open to the public. President Lisa Slawson told AnnArbor.com she hopes to have “good news” to discuss.
The budget passed on Tuesday calls for $2.603 million in staff reductions, $830,000 of which would have to come from either privatizing as many as 100 support staff or concessions from SESP union members, district officials said.
Laying off 16 to 17 certified staff and two administrators would save $1.448 million and $325,000, respectively. The certified staff could include teachers, counselors or social workers — any members of the SEA, said Superintendent Scot Graden.
Graden said specific individuals have not been identified yet. But he did say the staff reductions would be in the form of layoffs, rather than retirements or resignations. The district only had about two teacher retirements this year, Graden said in a previous interview.
The district does not know from which level the administrators will be cut, central administration or the building level. The $325,000 also could come in the form of administrator concessions.
“These all, essentially, are target figures,” Graden said. “And how exactly we achieve the target figures is still somewhat up in the air because of the negotiations.”
The remaining $400,000 in cuts will be achieved through a variety of utility, equipment or supply reductions. The impact of this will be increased demands on staff and delayed implementation of technology and instructional initiatives, said Interim Finance Director Janice Warner. The district also anticipates larger class sizes and exploring some online options, Warner said.
An additional $197,000 toward balancing the budget will come in the form of increased revenue from the district’s higher “pay-to-participate” fees.
In 2010-11, Saline implemented a $50 per-student increase to these fees for athletes and club members at the middle and high school. The higher fees contributed to the bulk of the $197,000 in extra revenue, Warner said. She added Saline’s community education department also will be asked to contribute more money to the general fund.
“It’s never good or fun or right to cut staff,” Slawson said. “But I think it’s imperative that we right-size the district.
“This budget satisfies the state requirement that we pass one, but I think that possibly there are things that’ll happen (Wednesday) that’ll affect it. And I think that you’ll see amendments coming through August. So hopefully (the impact) will not be as bad as expected.”
The sale of land at the corner of Woodland and Maple roads, when finalized, will generate $569,000 and increase the district's fund balance to $1.5 million at the end of fiscal year 2013. That will be about 3.15 percent of Saline’s total operating expenditures.
The Board of Education has a policy that when the fund balance dips below 5 percent of the district’s expenses, a plan must be crafted for replenishing the savings account to at least 5 percent within two years. Warner said the administration will start working on such a plan.
Slawson said she is pleased the district is not touching its fund equity for 2012-13.
“We messed with the fund balance last year, and this district has a rich history of not messing with the fund balance. I think now we are well aware of what happens when you mess with the fund balance,” she said. “It’s important to have something and we were dangerously close to having nothing in that rainy day fund.”
Slawson added personally, she is not in favor of privatization.
“I think that each of those people, they make the experience,” she said. “(Tuesday) I saw my daughter’s very first bus driver and my son’s very first bus driver and they make a huge difference to my kids. The cafeteria ladies — I don’t worry that if I fogot my kid’s lunch money one day, you know, they’re not going to let your kids starve.
“(The support staff) are all an important part of this family and I think it’s important to do whatever we can to protect family.”
Tonight’s special board of education meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in the Liberty School Media Center.