BPS reduces deficit by $4.5 million

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 24, 2012

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BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Public Schools district had reduced its budget deficit by nearly two-thirds, according to an announcement at the Board of Education meeting Jan. 17.

“We had our budget done on June 7 of 2011, at which time there was a deficit of about $6 million. Now, the deficit is a little over $2 million,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Deborah Piesz. “We had a $4 million swing in general funds.”

That swing took the district from being $6.6 million in debt to $2.1 million in debt, and brings BPS within the parameters required by its fund equity policy, according to Piesz. The savings is due in large part to reduced salary and benefit costs for BPS staff, which now pays 10 percent of health insurance premium, as opposed to a sliding scale system used in years past.

“Before, teachers were paying about $100 a year. Now it’s $1,500,” said Piesz. She added that when the current employee contracts expire in 2013, BPS staff will pay 20 percent of their premiums.

According to Anne Cron, spokesperson for Birmingham Public Schools, the district also saved $3.6 million this year on utilities, thanks to unseasonably warm weather, better energy rates and smart energy use.

In addition, BPS saw about a $1 million income boost this year. Both the Best Practices program and the Office of Retirement Services provided the district with about $100 per child, respectively. The district also enrolled 63 new students this year, according to Piesz, which provided additional funding.

Deputy Superintendent Paul DeAngelis said the news came as a nice surprise, though he believes the district is always fiscally savvy.

“I think it demonstrates the fact that we’re moving in the right direction. I think it speaks to the fiscal stewardship of the board,” he said.

DeAngelis went on to say that the savings that were seen this year didn’t come as a result of cutting corners, but rather smart budget strategy.

“It shouldn’t be viewed as we’re hyper conservative. We’re just responsible with our projections,” he said. “There are so many factors we can’t account for when it comes to state aid and enrollment. But we try to take a very responsible approach.”

Piesz said that despite the fact that the district still has to wait on Gov. Rick Snyder to finalize his budget for 2012-13 Feb. 9, for now, the good news is a welcome relief.

“I think everyone is pleased that we’re now looking at $2 million, not $6 million,” she said. “The sense of urgency has been relieved somewhat. We’re always looking for more efficiencies. That will never go away. But we’re pleased to be at this point where we’re at during the fiscal year.”

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