Escanaba schools face $1.8M deficit

ESCANABA – Escanaba Area Public Schools is anticipating a $1.8 million shortfall for the 2013-14 school year, which could impact multiple jobs district wide.

The information was presented to members of the Escanaba School Board during a recent special meeting.

According to Superintendent Michele Lemire, the shortfall is the district’s best estimate right now as they await the final budget from the state, which intends to let districts know by June 1.

Lemire said the district is spending $1,030,944 to operate for the 2012-13 school year, and is expected to have a fund balance of $242,264 on June 30, 2013.

The district anticipates receiving $1,565,312 less in revenues for 2013-14, which includes a projected decrease of $334,368 in funding due to declining enrollment and $200,000 less in state funding.

When added to an estimated $300,000 increase in expenditures, Lemire said the district anticipates a $1.8 million shortfall for 2013-14, which could impact many employed within the district and result in some additional cuts.

“Since 85 percent of our budget is personnel, it looks like 25 to 30 people will be affected,” she said.

The school board will meet as a committee of the whole at 5 p.m. on May 14 to further discuss and address these challenges.

In other business the board voted to approve an Apple lease agreement for computers, laptop computers, and iPad minis for use at the Escanaba Upper Elementary School. The district expects to pay $34,925.37 for the next three years for the purchase.

“The recent bond initiative allowed us to significantly improve educational technology in our junior and senior high classrooms, as well as in our K-3 classrooms. The Upper Elementary did not receive funding from the bond, and so thus did not get the updated equipment,” explained Lemire.

The Apple lease will provide laptop computer replacements for teachers with outdated desktop computers, updated computers for the main computer lab at the Upper Elementary, and sets of iPad mini tablets on mobile carts for classroom use to do research and other technology tasks.

In the past, the district has used leases for technology purchases to spread costs over a few years.

“This lease will not cost any more than what the district is currently paying, as we have an old lease payment dropping off the books next year,” said Lemire.

In addition to the lease, the district has received a TRIG grant from the state of Michigan to pay for the installation of upgraded wireless infrastructure at the Upper Elementary to prepare the school for online instruction and assessments.

“The state of Michigan’s move to online instruction and assessments make this initiative a necessity for our students to be successful with new state expectations,” said Lemire of the lease agreement and grant.

The board also chose not to renew the American Academy drop-out prevention program which had been extended for a second year during the 2012-13 school year. The board has decided to see if the district can implement a similar program with the potential to gain revenue, since they have been working with another company for the American Academy program.

They also approved implementing various other procedural changes with the potential for creating additional revenues in certain areas.

These include:

creating a Great Start Readiness Program at Soo Hill and Webster elementary schools to increase coordination between pre-school and kindergarten in an effort to increase student achievement.

implementing a closed campus lunch at the high school for student safety, decreased tardiness and discipline issues.

providing bus services outside of the district if they are able to attract more than six new students in each locale to make the option feasible.

adjusting busing needs to even out the bus loads of students to decrease the waiting time for them before and after school.

marketing an accelerated course progression to seventh and eighth graders so they can receive high school credit early, as well as after-school programs that provide academic support for students and supervision support for families.

implementing instructional content coaches, teachers with an expertise in a content area, which is aimed to help deepen instructional strategies and support other teachers as they learn new strategies.

holding on to curriculum materials for the 2013-14 school year since the content is not yet aligned to the new Common Core materials.