VDPS board approves staff, program cuts

Reductions will help balance the budget

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 29, 2012

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WARREN — Closing the Thompson Community Center’s alternative education program, eliminating several staff positions and reducing the athletic budget were among the many cuts the Van Dyke Public Schools Board of Education approved at a school board meeting June 25.

The cuts — which passed 6-1 with Board Vice President Jim Brinkey as the dissenting vote —were approved to help balance the budget for the 2012-13 school year.

By law, school districts have to vote on their school budgets by June 30. The fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30.

Prior to the vote, Superintendent Joe Pius and Andrea Agrusa, district director of business and operations, presented the 2012-13 operations budget to the board and audience.

According to the proposed budget, revenues — including local, state and federal dollars — for next year are projected at $31,332,673. Expenditures are predicted at $31,327,552.

The district will receive approximately $1.2 million less in revenue than it did last year. Expenditures — retirements, benefits, utility costs, staff increases, and supply and purchase services — increased by about $1.3 million from last year, according to the budget.

The program and staff cuts the board approved last Monday helped bring down expenses within the district.

The program reductions included closing the Thompson Community Center’s alternative education program, reducing the athletic budget, grant reductions, eliminating 5.5 full-time kindergarten assistants, and eliminating the state’s School to Work program. According to Pius and Agrusa, those cost savings total just over $1.40 million.

The instructional staff cuts the board majority approved were 4.5 full-time Lincoln High School staff members, one full-time McKinley Elementary special education staff member, one full-time Lincoln Middle School counselor, one full-time Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps staff person, and one special education contracted staff member. The instructional staff positions will save the district $822,000.

The non-instructional staff cuts approved were two bus driver and two custodial positions; one LHS staff member; and one special education employee. The assistant director of operations position also was eliminated. The non-instructional cuts will save the district $234,000.

School officials must set aside $209,000 for unemployment benefits; therefore, the staff cuts combined are expected to save the district a total of $847,000.

Van Dyke’s proposed budget for next year leaves just $5,121 in the district’s fund balance. A fund balance acts like a savings account and is used for emergencies. The fund balance account is usually much higher, but Van Dyke, as well as districts across the state, has been forced to dip into their fund balance accounts to make up for shortfalls in their budgets.

Van Dyke is not alone with its financial woes. School districts receive money from the state, and because of Michigan’s economic downturn, there is less and less money in the state aid fund for public education.

At a school board meeting June 11, Pius outlined the district’s financial outlook for the 2012-13 school year. His presentation included a number of suggestions in which to cut expenses. Many of those suggestions were approve by the board June 25.

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