Morenci school budget approved 06.30.2010

Written by David Green.


It’s going to be another year of deficit spending for Morenci Area Schools as the district’s savings continues to decline.

District finance director Erica Metcalf told board members last week that current fiscal year spending could end up with a deficit as high as $100,000, but she expects it to be less.

For 2008-09, the forecast called for a deficit of $150,000, but it ended about half that amount.

Metcalf presented the board with a worst-case deficit of $300,000 for the next school year. She based that on an additional state aid cut of $268 a student and an enrollment of 764 students.

The cut from the state might not be as great as projected, she said, but the district needs to prepare for the worst situation—and hope for the best, she added.

With so many students moving in and out of the district, Metcalf said that enrollment is an even greater wild card than the state’s foundation allowance.

Many districts across the state are seeing an increase in delinquent taxes, she said, which causes a cash shortfall until the county fills the gap.

Increases in retirement costs equates to a per-student cost of about $150, according to state estimates.

“It’s impressive how much has been cut,” Metcalf said.

A year ago the district borrowed $1.1 million in anticipation of state aid funds; this year $700,000 will be borrowed.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

Metcalf doesn’t expect the shortfall to stay as high as $300,000, but many unknowns remain.

“All in all, with as much uncertainty as we face, while it’s hard to say that I’m pleased with a $300,000 deficit,” she said, “we’ve made up some serious ground.”

Supt. Michael Osborne spoke of the frustration of facing a large deficit despite the many cuts already made.

“This is projected to be one of the worst years yet,” he said, “and even with all the work we’ve done, we still are looking at a deficit that’s larger than we’ve ever seen before.”

He would like to be able to start adding back in the fall instead of making cuts, but that won’t be known until later if that’s possible.

School board president Scott Merillat also expressed his gratitude to staff members for the cuts and adjustments made.

Earlier in the year, he said, a $700,000 deficit looked like a possibility, with cash savings of only $650,000.

Budgeted spending for the next school year stands at $6 million, down from $6.7 million in the current year.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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