The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Morenci school board: $250,000 deficit projected 7.1.09

Written by David Green.


If you thought 2008-09 was bad for school funding, just wait until 2009-10. It’s going to get much worse, says Morenci Area Schools finance director Erica Metcalf.

Actually, 2008-09 turned out only half as bad as predicted. When Metcalf addressed the board of education a year ago, her forecast called for a deficit of $150,000. Now it looks like it will be closer to $75,000.

She credits the school staff with careful work at trying to keep expenses down.

It will take more than that to cover the projected deficit for the next school year that Metcalf pegs at $250,000.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” she told board members at the annual budget hearing. “We’re reducing our expenses but still facing a deficit. There will be a number of items where I’ll continue to ask, ‘Do we need it?’”

There are always unknowns at school budget time when districts are required to approve a budget before state aid is known, but this year brings more uncertainty than usual.

“I’ll really be trying hard to avoid mid-year cuts,” said school superintendent Kyle Griffith, “but with all these variables, we might have to make adjustments.”

The three factors he sees as most troubling are inconsistencies in state funding; stipulations tied to federal funding; and falling enrollment.

Enrollment has been in decline for most Lenawee County districts and the situation could worsen as home foreclosures increase.

Metcalf predicated the budget on 831 students, a loss of 20 from the past school year. She’s hoping the dip goes no deeper.

Metcalf told the board that reductions in state spending in the past year were mostly balanced out by more than $300,000 in federal “stimulus” funds. That will happen again in 2009-10, but with a big difference.

Federal funding generally comes with the stipulation that it can’t supplant existing services, Metcalf said. The dollars must be used to improve student instruction in a way not currently offered.

Those stipulations were waived last year, but that won’t be the case in the next year. However, the stipulations haven’t yet been made clear.

State aid is the biggest variable at this point, with the House calling for a $110 per pupil reduction and the Senate calling for $257 less. For the following year, there’s already talk of reductions greater than $400.

The district has survived on its cash reserves, Metcalf said, but with cuts that deep, the fund balance would become so small that the board would probably be forced to come up with a balanced budget.

If the district can hold the deficit to the projected $250,000 mark, $433,000 would remain in the fund balance.

Looking around the area, Griffith said Morenci is still in better shape than some districts due to the tough decisions made by the board in the past.

DEBT RETIREMENT—The growth in delinquent taxes is putting a pinch on the debt retirement fund from the middle school project, Metcalf said.

If the situation continues, the general fund would have to fill the gap or the seven mills levied would need to be increased.

JOY OF LEARNING—The Joy of Learning program (Michigan School Readiness Great Start) is projected to be cut from the state budget, Metcalf said. The program is administered by Little People’s Place in Morenci.

LOAN—The district has borrowed from the Michigan Municipal Bond Authority for the past four years, Metcalf said, and board members approved borrowing again in anticipation of state aid payments.

The loan this year will total $1.1 million, up from last year’s $950,000 note.

MAINTENANCE—Griffith reminded taxpayers that the maintenance and construction projects underway at the school this summer are funded by a levy that cannot be used for general purposes.

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