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

  • Front.cheers
    MACEE BEERS joins other Fayette Elementary School students for the annual Mini-Cheer performance during the half-time break at the basketball game.
  • Family.3.wide
    CHILDREN at Stair District Library’s Family Story Time toss scarves into the air during an activity. The evening program provided a mix of stories, songs, dancing, crafts and snacks Monday evening. The program is offered at 5:30 p.m. every Monday for five more weeks. The program is designed for three to five year olds and their family.
  • Front.newpaper.2
    THE INTERVIEW—Evelyn Joughin (right) records the interaction with an iPad while Jack Varga, next to her, asks questions of Morenci Elementary School principal Gail Frey. Morenci senior Sam Cool (standing) listens. Cool serves as the editor for the newspaper written by members of Mrs. Barrett’s second grade class.
  • Front.code.2
    WRITING CODE—Brock Christle (left), a Morenci fifth grade student, takes a look at the progress being made by fourth grader Anthony Lewis. Libby Rorick, a sixth grade student, is next in a line of girls trying out the coding tutorials. This year marked Morenci’s second year of participation in the Hour of Code project.
  • Front.skelton.vigil
    MORENCI’S three Skelton brothers were remembered with both tears and laughter last week during a candlelight vigil at Wakefield Park. Several people came out of the crowd to give their recollection of the boys who have now been missing for five years.
  • Front.gym.new
    REMIE RYAN (left) tries to dodge the foam wand held by Hayden Bays during physical education class at Morenci Elementary School. In the background, Lauryn Dominique and Brooklyn Williams stay clear of the tag. Second grade students were working on cardiovascular health on the first day back from vacation. For the record, Safety Tag is a very difficult sport to photograph.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.

Morenci school finances 2012.02.15

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci school finance director Erica Metcalf has delivered gloomy economic forecasts to board members for several years running as revenue continues to fall.

The board responds by making cuts, and sometimes anticipated funding improves. In the end, the situation doesn’t turn out to be quite as dire as the worst-case scenario she presents.

This year looks different. Even the not-quite-so-bad outcome is truly bad. Recent deficit budgets have been bailed out by the district’s fund balance, but that will soon disappear. 

Without a significant cut in spending, Morenci will become a deficit district in the next school year.

The district has done a good job of cutting costs over recent years, said superintendent Michael Osborne, and the teaching staff helped greatly this year with concessions in insurance costs.

“But even with all the things we’ve done, with all the cuts we’ve made and concessions made, we’re still finding that we’re at a very difficult time,” he said.

“Our goal is very simple: We’re going to keep the district out of deficit. There’s nothing good that comes out of being in deficit.

“Part of our goal is to continue having this district the way it is. We don’t want to lose the Morenci Bulldogs. We don’t want to lose the identity that we have as a district or as the community.”

 Financial adjustments will be needed to make that happen, he said.

Metcalf explained that last year’s state budget for education trimmed $470 per pupil, resulting in a loss of $547,300 for operations in the current school year. An increase in staff retirement costs is equivalent to an additional $281 per student.

Making up for these losses will bring the district’s fund equity down to $173,000 by the end of the current school year. The balance topped $1 million seven years ago.

The board approved a budget last June showing a deficit of $300,000 and that was balanced by staff insurance concessions, higher than expected enrollment and other savings.

On the other hand, unbudgeted costs reached $105,400 due to the need for an additional teacher, additional paraprofessionals and the Rosetta Stone language program.

The anticipated budget shortfall stands at $432,000 for the current school year and $936,800 for 2012-13. Losses for the 2012-13 year include a projected drop in enrollment, the end of a federal funding program, retirement cost increases, the end of a state program and an expected increase in special education costs.

The district has done a great job of cutting expenditures, Metcalf said. If the state would restore the $470 cut, Morenci would be in good shape.

“Morenci runs the risk of having to deal with a deficit elimination plan and the very real possibility of an emergency financial manager,” she said. 

“We need to make some serious cuts and I don’t know where they’re going to come from,” she said, “but I know I can’t have a $936,000 deficit.”

Metcalf anticipates a further decrease in enrollment. Student numbers went down by 20 in the month following the fall count.

“This, by far, is the scariest position I’ve ever seen the district in. Never did I anticipate that Morenci would be the smallest school in Lenawee County. We have serious work do and for once I don’t have the answers.”

Osborne reiterated his goal of holding the district together.

”I want to make it clear that our vision is to maintain this district,” Osborne said. “I believe we can do it. I’m pleased with what we’ve done, but it’s not enough.”

Osborne said he will continue looking at cooperative efforts and additional staff concessions.

“I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little,” Metcalf added, “but the sky is falling.”

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