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Clinton Township

Published August 1, 2013

District balances budget for new school year

District continues to work on deficit elimination plan

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clintondale Community Schools officials are continuing to lower debt in the deficit reduction plan the district turned in to the state a few years back.

“We’ve been in the process for several years,” CCS Board of  Education President Jason Davidson said. “We file reports on a montly basis with the state. It is mandatory. We have shown progress. We will survive. We are projected to be out of deficit by the 2014-2015 school year.”

As the district works toward becoming solvent, the school board is still required to vote on an annual general appopriations, sometimes referred to as the proposed budget. At the June 24 school board meeting, the board voted unanimously to accept the general appopriations for the 2013-14 school year.

Revenues — which include local, state and federal dollars — were predicted at $30.5 million. Expenditures — retirements, salaries, benefits, utility costs, and supply and purchase services — were projected at $28.4 million.

Superintendent George Sassin said he predicts the district will receive $7,343 in per-pupil funding during the new school year. Enrollment numbers were not available at press time.

“Our enrollment is fluid and it looks like, from the current activity of new families moving in to the district, our numbers should be encouraging,” Sassin said.

Funding for public education is tied to Michigan’s economy. Because of the state’s economic downturn, less per-pupil funding — also known as state aid — has been made available to school districts statewide, although there have been increases in expenses, including that of utility, supply and employee retirement costs.

Districts statewide have cut staff and programs in an effort to stay afloat. Some districts even incorporated “pay-to-play,” in which families had to pay a fee per year for their children to participate in afterschool activities, including sports and marching band. That’s something CCS avoided.

“We don’t do the pay-to-play,” Davidson said. “I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it will save you money.”

Sassin said it is unknown if the state will provide any more money to districts, but added that it’s “not likely.”

Davidson said the district started with a $4.9 million defict and that school officals let the state known ahead of time the district was facing a debt.

“We were forthcoming with the state,” Davidson said. “We let them know we were going to be in deficit.”

Clintondale finished out the 2012-13 school year with an approximate $3.6 million deficit.

“We chopped off $1.3 million,” the school board president said. District officials predict the deficit to be $1.4 million at the end of the 2013-14 school year. To get out of deficit, the district has worked to cut expenses.

“With any school, the biggest cost is employee salaries and benefits,” Davidson said. “Our unions and administrators have made concessions that have helped. We’ve gone to vendors and they’re giving us price adjustments. Over the years, we’ve eliminated low enrollment classes and low enrollment sports.”

As some staff positions became vacant due to retirees or those leaving the district, school officials didn’t always replace those positions. Money was saved by not hiring new employees.

In another method to cut costs, school officials also have contracted out special education busing services to the Macomb Intermediate School District.

“We’re using a cooperative agreement,” Davidson said. “They have a bigger fleet of busing special education students.”

CCS also moved into an agreement to use Warren Consolidated Schools busing services for the regular education students.

Davidson said the CCS bus drivers — which are part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union — were laid off. He also said the district’s own bus fleets are aging, prompting safety issues.

“It’s never easy,” Davidson said of pink-slipping employees. “The majority of the people in our support services live in our community. It’s hard every time you’re cutting people’s jobs.”

The hope is the laid-off bus drivers will be hired for the MISD’s special education bus route and the WCS routes, too.

CCS also looked at ways to bring in revenue.

“Our virtual school has brought in additional students,” Davidson said. “We have locked into pricing for our natural gas for several years. We watched the market and were able to lock in when prices dropped.”

The 2013-14 general appropriations could be altered during the school year.

“Budgets are subject to a multitude of external and internal changes, any of which could result in an budget amendment,” Sassin said.

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