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Gladstone schools look at future financial picture

GLADSTONE — Gladstone School Superintendent Jay Kulbertis looked at the financial impact COVID-19 is likely to have on the district — and the state — during a virtual meeting of the Gladstone Area Schools Board of Education Monday.

“We had the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. They’re looking at the school aid fund specifically being down just over a billion dollars this year and just over a billion dollars next year,” Kulbertis said.

Another session of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference is set to take place later in the summer.

“Typically, they would be factoring in state income tax, and they don’t have those projections … because the deadline for paying your state income tax was delayed, those projections aren’t into the mix yet,” Kulbertis said.

As school aid fund expenditures will likely exceed fund revenues, Kulbertis said a default mechanism would automatically prorate state aid to local school districts unless specific actions are taken to prevent this.

“What that proration would be is about a $650-per-student proration,” he said, adding this would represent a cut of about $1 million to Gladstone Area Schools’ budget for its 2019-20 fiscal year.

Kulbertis encouraged board members to contact legislators and let them know what the proration would do to the district.

“We have a $14 million budget. One million-dollar hit out of the budget … would be closing an entire building, so skipping three grades. It’s just, there’s no way to get to that big of a number in one year, much less to try to do it twice,” he said.

After the meeting, Kulbertis clarified there is no immediate risk of the district having to close a building.

On Monday, Upper Peninsula school superintendents held a conference call with State Superintendent Michael Rice. Rice talked about the proration mechanism and steps meant to minimize the financial impact to school districts this year, which could include using monies from the state stabilization fund and requesting flexibility in spending federal funding Michigan has been allocated.

“There are some things that can happen at the state and federal level that can impact this current fiscal year, but again, there’s the projected additional billion-dollar shortfall in the school aid fund for next year,” Kulbertis said.

Kulbertis said Michigan’s general fund has been projected to be in worse shape this year and next than the school aid fund.

required to pull the boat out of the water to gas it up,” she said. “The boat launch is open, but their are no facilities though.”

This year the beach in Gladstone will open without lifeguards or a concession stand. Swimmers will swim at their own risk.

“We are grooming the beach, tiki torches will go up, and the bathrooms and showers will open when it is allowed,” Sanderson said.

Currently seven neighborhood playgrounds are blocked off to residents so they cannot use them due to the stay-at-home order. The skate park is not blocked off but is considered a playground and is full of sand and not open for use.

“We have to find out if the water slide can go back into the Bay. It is considered a piece of playground equipment. It has to be ok’d first,” Sanderson said. “Though the playgrounds are closed, all walking trails are open. We have kept them maintained.”

Trying to open park and recreation areas for the summer is tough during a pandemic, it is even harder with record water levels causing havoc from Lake Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc to Gladstone’s shoreline.

“The boardwalk is completely destroyed. We’re going to see what the water level does in the next few years before replacing it,” said Sanderson.

The boardwalk was closed to public July 2019 due to unsafe conditions of the structure. The closure will continue through the 2020 season.

Other activities Sanderson has planned for the summer are still in play. The Beautification of Gladstone and 4th of July festivities are going forward, but the 4th of July parade is still being decided.

“It would be too hard to social distance everyone who is normally sitting or standing elbow to elbow while watching the parade,” she said. “I’ve ordered the fireworks. We’re going to have bands in the evening, beer, food. I believe people know how to keep a safe distance from each other throughout the park.”

Sanderson has not canceled the summer concert series that will start in June on Thursdays, 7 to 9 p.m.

“I know how important it is to get out. The department and the city will safely open parks and green spaces,” said Sanderson. “The outdoors is essential to our well-being. I’m not ready to throw in the towel. That’s not how Gladstone rolls. We are going to do everything we can to get people out safely.”

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