Morenci school board 2011.06.08

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Falling enrollment, drastic cuts in state aid, a huge increase in staff retirement rates—put together, the situation could put Morenci schools in a deficit situation next year, with all reserve funds used up.

District finance director Erica Metcalf gave board of education members an update on school finances Monday now that Gov. Rick Snyder has made his state budget final.

Although enrollment numbers can only be estimated, Metcalf is following the trend experienced here and in most Michigan school districts. She expects to see more students leave the district than move here, and she’s using the figure 721 as her guess for fall enrollment—a drop of 24 students since the official count in February.

State aid includes the $170 per pupil cut made this year and the $300 per pupil cut made for the next school year in the governor’s budget.

Those funding cuts along with the drop in enrollment equates to a loss of $338,000.

An increase in retirement rates will cost the district a sum equal to $281 per pupil, for a total drop in revenue of more than $540,000. Increases in insurance costs could result in a budget shortfall of $1.18 million for the 2011-12 school year—a figure that only grows with each succeeding year.

“That’s by far the largest deficit that we’ve faced since I’ve been here,” Metcalf said.

The shortfall equals the cost of the entire teaching staff of the middle school, with the exception of special education teachers and the half guidance counselor position.

Metcalf doesn’t yet know how it can be overcome.

The deficit will be only partially covered by cash reserves that have fallen over the past decade. In the 1997-98 school year, Morenci had a fund balance of $2.1 million. Budget shortfalls caused that amount to shrink to $823,000 in the 2009-10 school year and currently stands at $523,000.

The district has the opportunity to cancel part of the loss through two incentive programs offered by the state.

“The governor’s cuts are bad,” Metcalf said, “but Morenci has an opportunity to capture up to $200 per child back.”

The first $100 would come through a “best practices” program in which districts would be rewarded for meeting four of five requirements by June 30, 2012.

Metcalf says she isn’t ready to bank on that money because districts have yet to see the details. On the surface, Morenci will have no trouble meeting the requirements largely due to past cost-cutting moves.

The other credit—estimated at $100 per student—is tied into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, but details are pending.

Both of the credits are one-time allocations for the 2011-12 school year, Metcalf said.

Although the news is bad, said Superintendent of Schools Michael Osborne, he hopes the public will develop some confidence knowing that the board knows what the issues are and is working to make changes.

“We are going to make it through this, just like this district has for years,” he said. “Our obligation is to the community, to make sure that we have a school here that’s providing the best education possible, and as the economy turns, as it always has, that we’re in a position to take advantage of it.”

RECALLS—Teachers Jamie DeVoe and Kelly Bush were called back from layoff for the fall, along with bus driver April Shaffer and cook Ronda McCaskey.

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

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