School board approves staff cuts

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 24, 2015

 Included in the West Bloomfield School District’s 2015-16 fiscal year capital projects is an asphalt reconstruction project at West Bloomfield High School, which is expected to be finished by Aug. 21

Included in the West Bloomfield School District’s 2015-16 fiscal year capital projects is an asphalt reconstruction project at West Bloomfield High School, which is expected to be finished by Aug. 21

Photo by Sarah Purlee

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education voted 6-1 June 22 to cut 48.85 positions, saving almost $3.45 million, to balance the 2015-16 budget.


Trustee Carol Finkelstein voted against the cuts.


“We’re making all of these ... cuts, and we have a lot of staff that hasn’t seen a raise in a very long time. I think we need to be aggressive in retaining the excellent staff we do have,” Finkelstein said.


The district projects the number of pupils to decrease by 333 for the 2015-16 school year. Though the per-pupil foundation allowance — which is established by the state and generates over 76 percent of the district’s general fund revenue — shows an increase of $75 per pupil, William Mull, assistant superintendent for business, said that about $50 of categorical revenue for best practices has been eliminated by the state. Therefore, the district is really receiving just under $25 per pupil to use for operations, he said. That would put the district’s 2015-16 per-pupil allowance at $8,801.


Combining the decreased enrollment and the per-pupil foundation allowance, the district is projected to lose $2.48 million in revenue, Mull said.


The declining enrollment is not only a West Bloomfield issue, but a countywide issue, and even a statewide issue, Mull said. Declining enrollment and state funding drove the budget reductions that were recommended to the board.


“These budget reductions are necessary in order to have a balanced budget going into next year,” Mull said.


District employees’ salaries and benefits account for nearly 82 percent of the budget. 


“When you have a significant budget problem and you talk about programs, what you’re really talking about are personnel,” Mull said. 


In total, the board voted to cut 48.85 full-time equivalent employees. The district is expected to cut two elementary teachers, 0.75 equivalent elementary specials teachers, one reading consultant, 7.8 equivalent middle school teachers, 7.2 equivalent high school teachers, 0.5 equivalent high school guidance counselors, 0.6 equivalent curriculum specialists, 2.5 equivalent special education resource room teachers, one special education self-contained teacher, 1.5 equivalent school social workers, seven resource room special education paraprofessionals, 9.5 equivalent self-contained special education paraprofessionals, 2.4 equivalent clerical personnel at the middle and high school levels, 2.85 equivalent media technicians at the middle and high school levels, and 2.25 equivalent security personnel at the elementary and high school levels. The deputy superintendent will be reclassified as an executive director, and the district plans on reducing substitute teacher costs for personal development and building meetings.


“All of those positions were important, and the decisions seem to be more challenging every year,” Mull said about the cuts.


Mull said that in addition to reducing staff, the district has reduced the budget for supplies, contracted services, substitute employee expenses, employee overtime and athletics/student activities every year. From fiscal years 2006-07 to 2015-16, 359 positions have been eliminated, which averages to $3.1 million in reductions per year.


Lisa Graff, president of the West Bloomfield Education Association, spoke on behalf of the association members and said, “We get it.”


“Our members of the association understand the grim financial reality the district faces and the difficult decisions that come with it. Mr. Mull has done an excellent job of providing information that demonstrates the district’s revenues and expenditures, and the state’s responsibility for not fully funding education but playing shell games to appear they’re meeting the needs of our districts,” Graff said.


However, Graff added that the association would like to see a long-term picture that shows an increase in employee salaries.


“If for the short term we can’t give people increased salaries, which members of your board have alluded to in recent meetings, working conditions become paramount,” Graff said, adding that slashing secretarial and paraprofessional positions will have an impact on the teachers.

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