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 finances 2012.02.15

Written 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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