September 23, 2014

SSC board wants to see school operate on smaller budget

Reduces pay of board members by 50 percent

By James Kuch
News Editor | news@arenacindependent.com
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STANDISH — At its most recent meeting, members of the Standish-Sterling Community Schools board discussed finding ways to operate the district on a smaller budget.

The district is currently facing, approximately, a $1 million deficit for the 2011-12 school year with Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts. During the meeting, Board President Dr. Leonard LeClair said the district needs to be ready for what the future holds.

“We need to start gearing our thought process toward operating our school on a lesser amount of money, as opposed to reacting to this big shortfall of every, single, little thing we can cut, and things that we are going to have to bring back.” he said to the board. “We have to realize that we are going to have to operate on a million less dollars a year for the next — forever maybe.”

At the meeting, LeClair said that he believes that everyone involved with the finance committee and the board will continue to look at all options.

“I know that (District Businesses Specialist) Mike Waldie and (Superintendent) Michael Dodge are going to look at getting us a budget that will include things like bus replacements and computer replacements, allowing us to operate at a lesser number,” he said.

LeClair said that the board will have to change its current thinking.

“We may have to switch our thinking a little bit about what we believe will need to be cut or reduced,” he said. “We have to look at it from a different point.”

Board member Ronald Bartlett said that it’s important to do what it takes to not let the district fall behind.

“Everything is going to have to be reduced,” he said. “But things like technology — that can’t be reduced.”

Bartlett said that every cut the district makes might never be replaced.

“I would like to see a balanced budget or some kind of plan, so that when we move forward we know where we are at,” he said.

Board member Gary Egan said that having a balanced budget is not going to be easy.

“It’s going to be hard to have a balanced budget when we don’t have facts from the state,” he said. “You can project (a budget), but we won’t have our facts back from the state until October, and they expect our numbers to be in before that.”

At the meeting, the board unanimously voted to reduce its pay by 50 percent.

LeClair said the board has to be willing to lead by example.

“It’s a symbol for us to lead by example,” he said.

Pooling of Funds

During the superintendent’s reports portion of the meeting, Beverly Skinner, director of instructional services for the district informed the board that the district has been selected to the Michigan Department of Education Schoolwide Consolidation Funds Pilot Project.

Skinner informed the board that under the pilot program, the district would be allowed to pool its state, federal and general funds. She added that, as part of DOE’s region 3, SSCS would be one of the first districts to take part in the project.

“There is a lot of changes going on with the state right now,” she said. “The money we get from the federal government, which is Title 1, can only be used for targeted students, students that are the most in need. If we go to schoolwide, then we will have more flexibility to help any student who may need it.”

Skinner said the pilot program will allow the district to have more flexibility with its money.

“We will be able to take our federal money, our state money and our local money and put it into one pot and use it as if it were all the same money,” she said.

Skinner gave the board an example of how the virtual consolidation would help improve the district.

“Before, we could not mix our state and federal money,” she said. “Now we can mix and mingle our funds together.”

Skinner said she believes the federal government is allowing for more flexibility, due to strict educational guidelines placed on school districts.

“We were not allowed to spend some of our Title 1 money on different things because it is federal money,” she said. “Now we can do that.”

Skinner said a virtual consolidation will help improve the district.

“We are way ahead of the curve,” she said.

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