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June 25, 2014

Troy School District trustees pass $132.5 million budget

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Troy School District trustees pass $132.5 million budget
Work begins to relocate the parking lot at Martell Elementary School, funded by a voter-approved bond.

The Troy School District Board of Education unanimously approved a $132.5 million budget after a public hearing June 17. The budget draws down about $1.2 million from the fund balance.

That leaves about $18 million in the fund balance, or 13.6 percent of the general fund.

No one from the public spoke on the budget during the public hearing.

“We actually like it higher,” said Mark Rajter, assistant superintendent of business services for the Troy School District, referring to the fund balance.

The budget is based on a projected count of 12,539 students, down slightly from last year’s count of 12,573, and a per-pupil foundation allowance of $8,885.

Rajter explained that while the foundation allowance included a per-pupil increase from the state of $50, the Troy School District was actually getting less than that per-student changes in “best practices funding.” The district also noted increased retirement costs.

The best practice funding is going from $52 per pupil for the 2013-14 school year to $50 per pupil in 2014-15, Rajter said. School districts must meet seven of nine criteria to get the maximum of $50 in areas including financials, employee insurance requirements, and teacher and student achievement.

“The 1 percent increase in the employer retirement rate contribution equates to roughly $55 per student increase in expenditures for Troy. Though the state has increased the foundation allowance by $50 per pupil, Troy will net a loss of ($7) per pupil in 2014-2015, compared to its funding in 2013-2014,” he said via email.

Rajter noted that other school districts in the state received $175 more per student under the new per pupil formula lawmakers approved under the K-12 budget plan as the final Omnibus Education Budget June 10.

State Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, and state Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, voted against it.

“This bill dramatically departs from the original budget bill that passed the House, the original budget bill that passed the Senate and the original budget bill as presented by Gov. (Rick) Snyder. It does include an overall funding increase, but the way that the increase is distributed is punitive toward metropolitan Detroit school districts. In consultation with the school superintendents and officials representing districts in Troy and Clawson, it was clear that the budget bill could have easily been modified so as to create a win-win situation with everyone walking away happy. This did not happen, and so I voted no,” Howrylak said via email.

“Historically, budget increases for per-pupil funding for school districts receiving the lower funding have increased at twice the rate of funding increases for higher-funded school districts.  This budget changed that approach to one that is effectively 3 1/2 times.  This puts pressure on school districts like Troy, Clawson and Avondale, who were led to believe that they would be receiving increases much greater than what they are ending up with. A number of us in the House had been pushing hard for an additional $20 million for K-12 funding. This would have allowed districts that are currently slated to receive the minimum foundation allowance increase of $50 per student (including all districts in Troy and Clawson) to receive another $25 per student.”

The Troy School District budget also includes the labor agreement with the Troy School District teachers ratified this spring.

“This budget represents our best forecast of revenues and expenses, given recent changes in state funding,” said Troy School District Board of Education President Nancy Phillippart via email. “We continue to allocate as many dollars as possible to directly educate and support students, and are proud of our low overhead costs.”

The approved Troy School District budget does not include funds raised by the voter-approved bond of about 4.7 mills, projected to drop going forward, that will raise $125 million over the maximum of 15 years. Voters approved that bond last November.

By law, bond funds may not be used for operating expenses. The bond will fund upgrades and include security modifications at all buildings, reconfiguration to accommodate smoother traffic flows, expansion of the gym at Smith Middle School, acoustical improvements to music classrooms at Troy High School, upgrades to restrooms at Athens High School, conversion of a pool at the International Academy-East into instructional space and new buses.

Enhancements to security will involve replacement of exterior doors on buildings throughout the district, in some cases expanding the vestibules, as well as buzzer systems and remodeling the front office areas.

Technology will be updated, including servers and computers, and the heating and air conditioning systems will be replaced or improved.

The goal is to do something at each building this summer.

The approved budget is available at www.troy.k12.mi.us.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.