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District braces for potential cuts

February 22, 2011
By Ashley Hoholik

MANISTIQUE - Gov. Rick Snyder's budget proposal is still causing shockwaves throughout the state, and many schools are bracing for the possibility of its adoption - including Manistique. During Monday night's meeting of the board of education, Superintendent Kathy McDonough gave an update on where the school would stand if Snyder's proposal becomes a reality.

In the governor's proposal, released Feb. 17, an additional $300 per pupil cut would be implemented along with the $170 per pupil cut previously budgeted. This would equate to an approximately $470 cut per student.

McDonough pointed out the initial per pupil cuts would be worsened by the proposed increase in both retirement and insurance rates.

"They are also recommending that we consider the retirement rate, which is proposed to go from 24.46 percent to 27.37 percent. With that, they are suggesting another $239 per pupil reduction," she explained. "Another figure that is not listed in this legislative report, but I've also heard is that you consider about $50 per pupil for increased insurance cost."

Taking in consideration the district's most recent unaudited student count of 924, a decrease from the official Sept. 1, 2010 count of 941.05, McDonough explained the per pupil cuts would be substantial.

"If you go on just the initial$470 per pupil, based on our raw count, that would be about a $434,000 plusthat we would have to go looking for in cuts," she explained. "If you add on to that $470 the $239 that's proposed for retirement and another $50 for insurance, that's $759 per pupil for a cost of just over $700,000 in district cuts."

In addition to the proposed per pupil cuts, McDonough said K-12 schools would also be taking another hit to the School Aid Fund (SAF), since the governor had suggested combining funding for colleges, universities and K-12 schools.

"The initial proposal out of the governor's office called for rolling the funding for universities and community colleges from the General Fund to the School Aid Fund," she said. "That would take up any surplus that the School Aid Fund was showing."

The SAF fund balance is used, in part, to determine the amount of per pupil funding schools receive. Last year, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm approved Public Act No. 158, which transferred a $208 million SAF surplus to the general fund to fill the deficit in the Community College budget and create a balanced state budget.

If Gov. Snyder's proposal is accepted by the Michigan Legislature, the likelihood of a SAF refund from the general fund is even less likely, said McDonough.

"The first time they raided the School Aid Fund I had talked with Mr. Lindberg, who was our state representative, and asked what provisions there were for paying that back," she said. "He said it wasn't worth the paper it was written on."

While the state waits to see if the governor's budget proposal is implemented as-is, McDonough recently met with other area superintendents, as well as Sen. Tom Casperson to discuss plans of action.

"We did a little planning ahead of time about what our concerns were," she said. "One of the main points that we all agree on, is that if you're going to do something, do it; do it now. Don't drag this thing out over months and months."

Highlighting the district's efforts to consolidate services and actively negotiating union contracts are among items McDonough said would assist the district in anticipating any enforcement of the proposal.

"April is still...the month that Gov. Snyder addresses education specifically," she said.

"He was very adamant that this was a pivotal, changing year in Michigan and that you would see substantial change."



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