October 31, 2014

SSC superintendent requests layoffs to cover deficit

By James Kuch
News Editor | news@arenacindependent.com
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STANDISH — Standish-Sterling Community Schools Superintendent Michael Dodge has recommended the district eliminate 12 teaching positions, five non-certified and two administrative positions in an effort to balance the district’s budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Dodge made his recommendations to the school board at a special meeting Monday, May 16. He said no final decisions have been made at this time.

As Gov. Rick Snyder’s recommended budget looms, the district is anticipating a loss of approximately $1.9 million, which would be a 12 percent reduction in revenue compared to last year’s budget.

Dodge recommended that along with cuts, the district use $438,394 from its fund balance and cut approximately $1.4 million from the district to balance the budget. The district fund currently has approximately $4 million.

“This is less than we have used in the past,” he said. “I don’t want to use any of it. In an effort to ease some of the pain, every dollar we move toward the positive can help save jobs.”

“The general fund is used for rainy days, and it’s pouring.”

Dodge said cuts would be difficult for everyone involved.

“I have not slept much in the past week,” he said about making his list of recommended cuts. “I care about all of the people in this district.”

Dodge said the district can’t “nickel and dime” programs in the district to the point where schools are not marketable to families.

“I have had 1,000 different people tell me, ‘Just cut sports or just cut music,’” he said. “Our programs are what make our district marketable. I took that into consideration when making my recommendations.”

According to Dodge’s recommended cuts, eliminating 12 teaching positions would save the district $960,000. Eliminating non-certified positions, which include four custodians and one paraprofessional would save $218,000. The two administration positions that would be cut, the athletic director and curriculum director, would save the district around $200,000.

Dodge said the administrative staff will now contribute to insurance and forgo a one percent raise for the fiscal year, saving the district approximately $13,000. He added that the administrative staff has chosen to forgo its $2,500 deductible for insurance.

“We have one of the best insurances around,” he said. “This is a substantial move forward for the administrative staff. They are taking the lead on this.”

Dodge said the two projected administrative cuts could have an effect on him personally. The people in those positions are Ben Welmers, athletic director and Beverly Skinner, curriculum director.

“There are two good people in those positions that I care a lot about,” he said. “Their loss would have an effect on me and the district.”

Dodge said every projected cut was made with the intention of having the least negative effect possible on students.

He said without the use of the school’s fund balance, the district might have had to potentially cut more teachers.

“We are trying to keep our class sizes as low as possible,” he said.

Dodge said all projected cuts could decrease as discussions with the teacher’s union progress.

“The unions have to sit down with me and we have to work together,” he said.

Dodge said the district would like to have the budget in place by June 1.

“We want to let people know as soon as possible,” he said. “No matter what we have to make cuts. We are just planning ahead.”

Board member Ronald Bartlett said he would like to avoid using the district’s fund balance if it were possible.

“We are lucky enough to have a (fund balance),” he said. “I am completely against using the fund balance. There is no reason to keep using it.”

Dodge said the district could cut more programs and save money from the fund but that would have a more direct effect on students.

“This is my recommendation but we can tweak this anyway the board chooses,” he said.

Dodge said his recommended cuts show everyone in the district making sacrifices.

“We are all giving a little bit with this,” he said. “This is just my opinion and that is what it is.”

Board President Dr. Leonard LeClair said some money should come from the fund balance every year.

“There is a minimum number of dollars that should be taken from the fund balance every year,” he said. “At one point this district had $11 million in the bank and we were worried the state would take it and there were some arguments (in the public) that asked what we were doing with $11 million in the bank.”

“At some point there has to be a number you are satisfied with and the rest of the money needs to go to the (students),” he said.

Bartlett said the money that is projected to be taken from the fund balance would not be the final total.

“I guarantee that it will be more,” he said. “You never know what is going to come up.”

Dodge said no matter what, people are going to be effected.

“Eighty-five percent of this school district is people,” he said. “Cuts are going to affect people.”

“Any cuts we make are going to effect kids, he said. “If we cut people it will affect kids.”

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