Escanaba schools look at finances

ESCANABA – The Escanaba School Board has begun the process to address potential cost reductions and efficiencies for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

As things stand, the district currently estimates a projected $509,560 shortfall based on Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal, said Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire during the superintendent’s report at Monday’s school board meeting.

“As part of our budget development, we look at what we currently offer for our programs and our offerings for students, and then we look at our anticipated needs for next year,” she said. “We look at enrollment and putting those two together. When you think about it, we’re looking at how many kindergartners have we registered, how many seniors are graduating.”

In addition to enrollment, current program needs and anticipated needs for 2014-15, the district also looks at state foundation allowance and categorical funding per-pupil.

“What we know today is the governor’s proposal,” said Lemire. “The governor’s proposal essentially recommends $111 more per student, but only $61 of that is new money because in the governor’s proposal, he eliminates the equity payment and puts it into the foundation.”

Escanaba Area Public Schools has seen years of budget reductions due to declining enrollment, state and federal budget cuts, and changes in legislation resulting in more costs. External fixes such as federal stimulus money, a retirement incentive, and re-routing of state dollars into restrictive categorical funding have also factored into these reductions.

Last year, the board voted to eliminate athletic transportation; replace staff strategically to result in less cost, such as contracting with the ISD; reconfigure bus runs; reduce teachers; eliminate funding to gymnastics, boys’ tennis and two junior high school basketball teams; eliminate a discipline officer; eliminate special education program aides; eliminate 4.3 custodians and change the cleaning program. The district is still spending money from its fund balance to operate.

However, a few revenue-generating activities were also implemented by the board last year through opening two Great Start Readiness Programs, opening the Escanaba Virtual Career Center, and increasing busing options outside the district.

The administrative and supervisory staff continue to review anticipated needs for 2014-15, consider efficiencies within departments, and communicate with current and potential partners for program delivery to learn of more opportunities to increase enrollment.

However, the district must be ready to address a potential budget shortfall, said Lemire, requesting the board make recommendations for her to gather any specific information for possible consideration at a future board meeting.

After much discussion, the board unanimously passed a motion to put out a request for proposal (RFP) for transportation and custodial services – just to find out more information on how much these services would cost the district.

“I would just like to say that all we are doing is gathering information. That is it,” said Board Secretary Natalie Clouse, who made the motion. “We are not making any decisions as a board.”

The board also agreed to have Lemire gather information in other areas, including potential athletic changes to seventh grade, eighth grade, or freshman sports; the possibility of self-funding or instituting a fee for additional sports; and the costs associated with assistant coaches.

In other business, the board:

– approved the hiring of Traci Millette for an open hot lunch helper position two hours per day at the Escanaba Senior High School.

– presented a certificate of recognition to Marie Young, junior high school teacher and team leader of the Escanaba Robomos robotics team, for her efforts in bringing the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics District Event to Escanaba and making the event such a success.

– heard a presentation on the success of the Escanaba Virtual Career Center, now in its first year in Escanaba.