Escanaba district adjusts funding plan

ESCANABA – The Escanaba School Board was provided a not-so-rosy state funding update at its meeting Monday.

According to Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire, rumors that Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget would give schools a 2 percent increase in funding is false.

She said this proposed increase is not for K-12 education, but is being discussed as a possibility in other areas such as increased funding for the state’s Great Start Readiness Program.

Under the governor’s proposal, Escanaba is projected to receive $161,466 less from the state compared to last year.

The district receives a $6,966 foundation allowance per student from the state of Michigan, totaling $17,568,252 in revenues in 2012-13 due to the district’s 2,522 students. However this number is anticipated to decrease in 2013-14 due to declining enrollment.

“Our assumption right now is that we could very well be down 48 students,” said Lemire. “Last year we anticipated being down 36 students and it actually ended up being more than that, so we looked at an average of five years to come up with this assumption.”

With a projected loss of 48 students next year, Escanaba would receive $17,233,884 in revenues from the state’s foundation allowance. This accounts for a loss of $334,368 from this year’s foundation allowance.

The governor’s budget also proposes a one-year equity payment of $34 more per student.

“If we get that equity payment after everybody discusses this at the state level, we could see an increase of $84,116,” noted Lemire.

Though the district received $52 per student this year for meeting certain “Best Practices,” the governor is only proposing $16 per student in “Best Practice” money for 2013-14. This accounts for a projection of $39,584 in funding for 2013-14 compared to the $131,144 in “Best Practice” dollars from 2012-13.

Escanaba also received an additional $41 per student in 2012-13 as a performance incentive for high-test scores; however this money is uncertain for 2013-14.

“Since we don’t know how the state’s going to calculate and determine who’s going to get the performance incentive, we can’t count on that because we won’t know until we actually are notified,” said Lemire. “That may not be until the beginning of next school year.”

Additional money for technology infrastructure and vocational education received this year are also uncertain for 2013-14.

Lemire urged members of the board to contact state representatives as they await the state Senate and House of Representatives to release their budgets, which they will then compare with Snyder’s and come to a consensus. The goal is to have this done by June, but the state is not required to adopt a budget until Oct. 1.

“To get that money back that was cut some years ago would be wonderful because we’ve been in cut mode for the last few years and we’ve been doing very, very well despite less and less funding,” said Lemire. “But at this point … we need to talk to legislators outside of our district and to share the good stuff that’s going on and to make sure that we can support our schools.”

The board also ratified a three-year contract, from 2012-15, with the Escanaba Education Association, which includes a wage and insurance re-opener in the second and third years of the agreement. According to Lemire, the contract provides for a zero percent increase in wages from the 2011-12 to 2012-13 school year along with other language changes.

However, many members of the Escanaba branch of the Michigan Education Support Personnel Association were on hand during the meeting to discuss their concerns regarding inaction of ratifying a MESPA contract and other negotiation concerns.

“We have not received so much as a cost of living increase over the last six years…,” said Roberta Lafave, a health care aide at the Escanaba Upper Elementary during public comment. “I think we’ve been more than fair and I think it’s time we’re heard.”

Mary Smith, MESPA president, noted MESPA employees are working without a contract and have not had a raise despite a larger workload and working with students who require a great deal of special attention.

“We’re doing nursing duties, secretary duties, and not being compensated for them,” she said.

Lemire said following the meeting that the board’s negotiating team had been negotiating in good faith with MESPA since before their contract expired on June 30, 2012.

“The board had the understanding the negotiations were being done ‘at the table’ rather than in public, and so the board was surprised to hear the comments spoken this evening, as the board believed MESPA has selected a team to represent its members, rather than empowering its entire membership to negotiate,” she said.

However, Lemire noted the board has given careful consideration and has responded to any written proposals received from MESPA.

“We expect to continue these efforts at the bargaining table,” she said.

In other business, the board:

– approved a resolution regarding the installment purchase for two new school buses the board had previously approved.

– approved a resolution of support for the Next Michigan Development Act, which lends support for an economic development initiative in the Escanaba area.

– approved the hiring of Dennis Dyszel for an open bus driver position, and Jenny Bourdeau for an open health care aide position at Webster Elementary School.