Morenci school board: $250,000 deficit projected 7.1.09

Written by David Green.

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.

  • Front.pokemon
    LATEST CRAZE—David Cortes (left) and Ty Kruse, along with Jerred Heselschwerdt (standing), consult their smartphones while engaging in the game of Pokémon Go. The virtual scavenger hunt comes to life when players are in the vicinity of gyms, such as Stair District Library, and PokéStops such as the fire station across the street. The boys had spent time Monday morning searching for Pokémon at Wakefield Park.
  • Front.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Girls.on.ride
    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
  • Front.softball
    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.soccer.balls
    BEVY OF BALLS—Stair District Library Summer Reading Program VolunTeens, including Libby Rorick, back left and Ty Kruse, back right, threw a dozen inflatable soccer balls into the crowd during a reading of “Sergio Saves the Game.” The sports-themed program continues on Wednesdays through July 27.
  • Front.art.park
  • Front.drum
  • Shadow.salon

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016