By DAVID GREEN
There’s a lot of hoping and gambling going on in Michigan school districts this summer. Administrators are hoping for a turn-around in the state economy and gambling on something better coming along from Lansing. That’s about all they can do without making rather severe programming cuts.
Newspapers across the state are publishing stories about smaller school districts facing budget shortfalls of $150,000, $250,000, some even higher, such as Morenci’s position at $285,000—and that’s after $266,000 the year before.
Board members aren’t going to let that figure stand this year. They’re well aware that an unresolved deficit from one year carries over into the next year to compound the problem. It doesn’t take long before fund reserves are dwindling to a dangerously low level.
Eventually, the reserve shrinks to a size in which it can no longer serve its purpose of carrying a district through a financial crisis. With the deficits many districts are facing, every day is a financial crisis, and it just doesn’t go away.
Litchfield schools turned a quarter million dollar shortfall into a balanced budget in one painful evening. The pain will be felt again in September when at least five staff members will no longer be working.
Morenci board members are mulling possible cuts before the start of the next school year. The goal is to take action that will least affect the education of children. But be forewarned: with two consecutive years of enormous deficits and the fund balance shrinking, the pain will be felt in this district, also.- July 12, 2006