(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 31, 2013)
As the newly elected school board members are still working on training and getting used to their new positions, they’ve been handed a $2.2 million problem. Due to lower-than projected enrollment figures, particularly in the Digital Learning Center, and reduced funding from the state, cuts had to be made.
After making some tough decisions, the Board worked it’s way toward just a $1.5 million deficit. Included in the budget is the reduction of five positions – three teacher layoffs and two additional positions that will remain vacant after employees left for other reasons. The board approved the budget at their Jan. 28, 2012 meeting, agreeing to dip into the district’s “rainy day fund” to cover the $1.5 million.
The problem was explained by Director of Finance Maureen Adams in the budget report. “From a background perspective, the district experienced a significant enrollment shortfall, primarily at the Digital Learning Center, that resulted in a loss of approximately $3.5-million in state aid. More specifically, the district experienced a loss of 449.21 full-time equivalent students from the number projected for this year.”
Additionally, the district lost nearly $735,000 in Federal Edu-Jobs funds, and more than $200,000 in state Best Practices funding due to cuts in those allocations.
Following the Budget Amendment #1 reconciliation of all actual revenue and expenses for staff, goods and services, and benefits, the shortfall between revenue and expenses was $2.2-million. In an effort to address this shortfall, additional reductions of approximately $700,000 were made by the administration in goods and services, reducing the shortfall to approximately $1,404,172. The remaining fund balance for June 30, 2013 will be $3,273,048.
“While it is not typical for us to recommend a budget that does not reflect a surplus, the administration determined that additional budget reductions would have to be made in staffing and the additional staff reductions would be very disruptive to the district operations, including the educational program. Consequently, administration is recommending the use of fund balance this year,” the report states. It also says that “Going forward, difficult decisions will need to be made regarding program and staffing levels in the Ferndale Schools.”
The Digital Learning Center is a new program this year that replaces traditional classroom education with a system of online courses and flexible scheduling for high school students. Students are provided laptops and wireless cards, and they complete learning modules online. They are also assigned to an Academic Case Manager who provides guidance for approximately 50 students. This program replaced the alternative education programming that was being offered at the Taft Building. Expected enrollment fell short by 449 students, causing the biggest hit to the budget.
In addition to the budget woes, The District continues servicing a controversial contract with Superintendent Gary Meier’s private consulting company ICE, where an un-tracked amount of goods and services, including District employee time during the work day, is spent doing work that Meier has subcontracted through another group. The group, called Michigan Future, provides support to charter and alternative education schools in the Detroit Area. This contract was cancelled by Meier in late 2012, but he decided to rescind his cancellation so as not to have the district loose the $180,000 a year in revenue. As middleman in the contract, Meier’s company intercepts $190,000 of a $370,000 Michigan Future contract, while he also collects about $225,000 a year for his job as Superintendent. To read more about this situation visit http://oaklandcounty115.com/2012/11/03/what-is-so-special-about-the-superintendents-contract/.
To read the Budget report, visit http://www.ferndaleschools.org/boardofeducation/documents/Board%20Reports/1-28-13%20Board%20Report%20Portfolio.pdf.