By Benjamin J. Gohs, Editor
Jobs will be eliminated, spending will be cut and programs will be effected if Boyne City Public Schools’ financial picture remains unchanged from last week’s budget work session.
The Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education met on Monday May 18 to get a clearer picture of the school system’s finances and to discuss possible solutions to an impending fiscal crunch.
“So, where are we at? Well, right now, we believe we are going to be in about a $530,000 hole,” said Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Moss, who presented the board with the school system’s overall financial picture heading into the next school year. “When I say ‘hole’ I mean we are overspending by over a half-a-million-dollars on this past year’s budget. We can’t anymore.”
He added, “We dipped into fund equity as much as we can … we need to have a balanced budget this year.”
Last week’s meeting was one of two planned budget work sessions.
“Just so everybody knows, there are no decisions … made tonight,” said Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education President Ken Schrader. “This is a workshop. This is advisory. This is for us to know—a lot of us are finding out the same time you will be what the administration’s ideas and thoughts are.”
Moss also discussed potential cuts which could be made in order to remain financially solvent.
“As we normally do about this time of year, we start looking at the following year even though we haven’t finished this year yet,” Moss said… “We wanna give you our best guess at what 2015-16 will look like and how we’re going to tackle the challenges of next year’s budget.”
He added, “This is only a proposal. There’s plenty of time for debate. There is plenty of time to receive alternative suggestions on reduction. And, of course, we encourage not only the board to participate but also the community at large.”
Moss began his presentation with a look back at the district’s recent fiscal years.
2004-2005 – Foundation allowance from the state, or the money given to Boyne City Public Schools per student, was $7,027.
Enrollment back then was 1,322.
In 2010-2011, Boyne City Public Schools received $7,606 per student from the state’s student aid moneys.
Enrollment that school year was 1,271.
In 2014-2015, the per pupil funding allotment is $7,243.
Enrollment this year is 1,327.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s estimate for per pupil funding in 2015-2016 is $7,326—though that number could change between now and fall when the state’s budget is actually passed.
Moss noted that the Michigan Senate’s plan would give Boyne’s school system an additional $73,000. The Michigan House of Representatives’ plan would give the school system an extra $173,000.
“Is there a compromise in the works?” Moss said. “Because, in the past, those three would get together and they would negotiate something usually in-between.”
He added, “We don’t know what our enrollment is going to be until Oct. 7. That’s the amazing thing.”
Enrollment figures for next school year are projected to be 1,300, due largely to a smaller expected incoming kindergarten class.
Even if the school system receives the governor’s $7,326 per student, that is a nearly $364,000 reduction in revenue to the schools from 2010.
“Multiply that for the four or five years that we’ve been on the short end of things, you’re close to almost $2 million that, if we could have maintained that funding up until this day, tonight’s meeting would probably be a lot easier to cope with,” said Moss.
Since 2004-2005, the school system’s expenditures have—except for one year—exceeded revenues.
The school system’s fund equity, or savings account, was $3,869,991 in 2004.
The projected fund balance for next school year is $621,844.
“Over the years, we haven’t made some of the huge cuts that perhaps some of our neighbors have had to make, it’s because we had a pretty good war chest there,” said Moss. “And, so, we’ve elected to spend down some of that equity.”
He added, “We’re estimating, if we make no changes, and with the expected revenue, and with the negative spending that we have, we’re going to be at a little over $600,000, which will be about 4.9 percent of our expenditures—dangerously, dangerously low and obviously doesn’t come close to the board’s expectation of a 10 percent fund equity.”
Boyne schools’ monthly bills average $1 million.
The fund equity is in place to help cover operating costs and/or repairs to anything from a roof to a heating system in case of an emergency.
“Who can we blame for this? I don’t know. I think the blame game is used way too often,” said Moss. “But, I think a factor that needs to be noted is the retirement rate, which back with Proposal A, back in the 1990s, that was a state obligation that was passed over to the schools.”
Back in 2004-2005, the retirement rate was 14.87 percent. Today, that number has risen to 25.78 percent—a 73.4 percent increase over the last decade.
“That’s pretty significant when you have a payroll of $7 million,” said Moss.
Moss said Boyne City has been fortunate to have a stable enrollment over the last few years.
“We had a high of 1,355 a couple years ago but that’s when we were still running the the Great Lakes (alternative) Program,” he said. “But, of course, that ended up going to Charlevoix. When they closed their middle school, it created space over there for the Great Lakes Program—that took about 25 kids right off the top.”
Moss went on to discuss the area’s population.
Population by age in Charlevoix
- 20-24 years – 18.1 percent decrease
- 25-34 years – 28.2 percent decrease
- 35-44 years – 16.3 percent increase
- 55-59 years – 31.2 percent increase
- 60-64 years – 48.6 percent increase
- 65-74 years – 27.2 percent increase
- 75-84 years – 13.9 percent increase
Moss said there has been a nearly 50 percent decrease in families of childbearing age in Charlevoix County over the last decade.
“We’re an aging community,” he said… “For whatever reason, we don’t have young families. We’ve lost a lot of our young families.”
Moss also pointed to a 32.3 percent decrease in local birthrates over the past 40 years.
The parameters the board and administration are using to ensure quality educational programming while meeting financial requirements include:
• Not compromise student safety
• As prudently as possible, defend student academic programming
• Protect reasonable class size guidelines (especially early elementary) set by the Board
• Safeguard the various electives currently offered (even at the expense of class size at the later grade levels)
• Preserve the variety of extra- and co-curricular opportunities for students
• Develop a two-year budget resulting in the maintenance of a quality academic/elective/activity program to avoid annual disruptions to the overall program
• As required by Board Policy, develop a budget that will maintain a 10 percent fund equity
Moss said most parameters were met to some degree, adding that the proposed budget will not affect the arts.
“Some of these we just did hit, folks … we’re not going to be able to get to a 10 percent fund equity unless we want to cut deeper,” Moss said. “There are some electives that may not make it, that would be at the high school level.”
Moss said those electives which could be affected are not yet known.
There are also some changes proposed to extracurricular programs.
“None of us want to make these changes but we think we can still run a decent program by cutting $700,000,” Moss said.
He added, “Let’s make the hard decisions now. Then, hopefully, a year from now, we aren’t looking to cut a ton.”
Costs & decreased revenue
Moss said there are some staff members planning to retire but the school system does not know when they plan to officially retire.
Teacher contract negotiations are also taking place again this year. The outcome of which could mean savings or additional costs.
The school system’s estimated revenue is coming in at $11,000 less than last year.
Employee insurance has gone up $89,000 for the coming school year.
The school district pays 80 percent and employees pay 20 percent of that insurance cost.
Boyne City High School will also need some additional teaching support, which will add cost.
Salary increases, as negotiated last year, will cost the school nearly $58,000.
When you add in the $531,914 shortfall leftover from this school year that Moss mentioned earlier, the school system is looking at a total of $718,000 it needs to make up.
Some Potential cost-cutting measures named by Moss include:
• Eliminate K-2 Spanish – $25,278
• Reduce 1 FTE Kdg Section – $81,220
• Redesign HS Media Spec Position to a Media Supervisor – $18,000
• Eliminate iPad Tech Support – $14,070
• Reduce .5 FTE MS Teacher Position – $31,699
• Miscellaneous Reductions – $15,873
• Reduce .5 FTE HS Teacher – $33,187
• Athletics – Moss has asked the athletics director to find $26,000 in cuts—$26,364 in reductions and revenue were found. The breakdown is as follows:
Coaching Position Reductions
• 9th Grade GBB – $3,516
• Rambler Boys BB – $2,722
• Rambler Girls BB girls – $2,722
• MS Cheerleading – $1,134
• MS Ski Coach – $3,821
• MS Track Assistant – $1,723
• 9th Grade Girls BB – $1,001
• MS Ski Team – $1,975
• 9th Grade Girls BB – $600
• Postage – $100
• Equip., Supplies & Uniforms @MS – $150
• 1st Aid Supplies Ath – $550
• Invite Fees – $2,000
• Rambler 5k +$2,000
• Golf outing +$2,000
• Stephanie Moody, who graduated from Boyne City Public Schools and taught there for 37 years, said the numbers proposed for kindergarten and first grade are “incredibly high.”
She added that the board’s proposal to reduce staffing while increasing class size will be burdensome on the staff and affect education and potentially cause students to go to other schools with smaller class sizes.
“Go spend a day. Walk in their shoes and see what it’s like,” Moody said.
• Amy Mansfield said the school board’s plan appears not to be hiring new para-pros but to reallocate para-pros from other classrooms.
“You need to keep that in mind, too: we’ll be robbing from one grade level in order to provide that at the lower grade level and still having situations where we have very high numbers of kids to manage,” she said.
• Robin Weiss asked why Boyne Falls Public School hasn’t been combined with Boyne City Public Schools in order to save money.
• Mike Durbin urged school officials to maintain math and sciences, especially calculus and physics.
• Boyne City High School junior Nicole Pauley addressed the board concerning the proposal to cut the media specialist in the library.
“I’m in the library four hours a day because I take two college classes and then I have two online classes,” she said. “As a media specialist you’re not just … checking in books or making sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Pauley said the current media specialist makes it a safe and efficient environment who the students rely on heavily.
Pauley said a new supervisor won’t know the students on a personal level like the current specialist Cindi Place.
“Mrs. Place has been in there for years. She’s been my mentor since I was in sixth grade,” Pauley said. “She helped me pass seventh grade.”
Moss said the board and administration will take what they heard from the public and discuss the matter again at the 7 p.m. Monday June 8 regular board meeting.