SL schools face shortfall

Spring Lake Public Schools will be laying off eight paraprofessionals as its officials try to get a handle on another year in red ink.
Krystle Wagner
Jun 18, 2013

The Spring Lake school board approved the layoffs for the 2013-14 school year on Monday night. The district also won’t fill 2.3 full-time-equivalent staff positions being vacated by retirement.

The Spring Lake district's chief financial officer, Scott Powers, said the school system will be faced with a $565,000 shortfall for the 2013-14 general fund.

Last year’s deficit was more than $700,000.

Powers said the district, like others in Michigan, is faced with difficult financial decisions as it creates a budget for the upcoming school year.

“At the heart of the matter is the effort to maintain programming for students in 2013-14 while operating with funding levels closer to 2006-07,” he said.

Spring Lake's total fund balance will start at more than $2.3 million on June 30 and is projected to fall to a little more than $1.8 million at the end of the next school year.

Superintendent Dennis Furton said there are about 30 paraprofessionals working throughout the district, and those being laid off will receive notification in the next day or two.

It’s the third year in a row the district has had to lay off some staff. If it wasn’t for the number of retiring staff members this year, the district would have faced more layoffs, Furton said.

The Spring Lake district isn't alone. The Associated Press reported 55 Michigan school districts are operating with deficits, and the number of districts facing a $1 million-plus shortfall is expected to increase from one a decade ago to 30 by the end of the next school year.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

Comments

NoWay

What is their operating budget? I would like to know the percentage of shortfall. Everyone gets excited by the large numbers thrown around, but if we knew it as a percentage it might not seem as critical of a situation. I know if I had to reduce my personal budget by 3 or 4 percent it could be done. Almost any business could look at their spending and find ways to save similar amounts.

dchittenden

You didn't know your budget going into the year? I'd like to see a balanced "budget" before looking at new expenditures in November.

moose

You can find out the budget info here: http://bit.ly/14gmAFe
It's about 2-3%, I believe. You say that you could cut your personal budget by 3-4%, but you're neglecting to consider a few things, the biggest of which is that your personal budget has flexibility that the schools don't, due to state requirements and community expectations.

First, the schools have been cutting their budgets by a few percent every year for several years, so any of the "fat" was long-ago trimmed from their spending. According to the article, it's the 3rd year in a row that Spring Lake has had to lay off employees.

Second, they have been dipping into their savings to cover the shortfall, and make what would be a larger deficit have a smaller impact. They are starting to run low on savings. If this were my personal budget, I'd be concerned.

Third, they've done everything they can think of to increase revenue (the equivalent of you getting a second or third job to help pay the bills.) There's just no more money coming in. To resolve this situation, the State has to decide to prioritize education in Michigan, and restore school funding. Proposal A, which was put into law about 20 years ago, was never carried out the way it was supposed to be, and our schools have paid the price ever since.

NoWay

Correct it looks to be about 2.5% shortfall.

First, I have made less for four consecutive years, and yet all my bills are paid.

Second, many of us have dipped into savings. It is concerning.

Third, when you cannot increase revenue, you decrease spending.

Identify the difference between wants and needs.

Zegota

I am actually getting real tired of hearing the blame game, always blaming the other guy, always saying we just don't have enough funds. Enough is enough, way don't we all start taking responsibility of are own situation, including the financial picture.
You learn to live within a budget, period and you learn to plan a budget that does not include any increase in expenditures unless you have an increase in the general budget.
Maybe our public schools should be able to print and borrow money like the federal government, but that is another sad self-destructive story. I know one thing for sure, the schools that are becoming at risk financially, better not ask the taxpayers for increase funds. Because if you cannot handle, or manage the finances that you have now, you surely are not going to handle any increases. Say no to any tax increases, because there are just not enough working class members to keep paying for all these financial mistakes, with the big one yet to hit.

Ignorance is bl...

The state doesn't stick to the "budget" and sometimes changes how they fund, and the quantity that they fund mid year. Like someone else said- comparing a family budget and a school budget are not even remotely close. Look at this chart and tell us how it relates to your budget.
310 million peeps.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1DmlyM...

BTL2A

If you can figure out how to operate year in and year out without an increase in expenditures let us know how. One way is for the tax payers to help. We can build more efficient schools so their operating budget goes down. Although it's clear you don't want to contribute to an increase tax. You will get your wish if the school quality goes down, you will be happy to see property taxes drop since your home value with go way down with a worse school.

Also it wasn't just "not an increase in general budget" it is with a decreasing budget. 2010 budget was 25.44 million for 2013 it is 24.49.

So decrease funds, increasing cost, more students, to me it is a clear sign to why the schools are struggling. Perhaps we could start a school for magicians in Spring Lake, since it will take magic to achieve the plan you think they should be able to follow.

Highlander

The state has cut state funding "to the quick". The lack of creative solutions to the funding inequities is now affecting learning not only in the poor districts where education dollars don't go very far, but now in more affluent districts like Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Grand Haven & Spring Lake. Public Education hasn't been cut by "3 or 4%". It's time parents wake up and demand solutions. As a parent of school aged children, these cuts are eliminating quality programs and innovation (innovation cost money). Recently, Gov. Snyder moved a $Billion from school funding to business. The lottery does not add to existing educational funding, it allows the governor to move the funds replaced by the lottery to other pet projects. It's like a "shells game"- now you see it, now you don't. Another link:
http://www.mlive.com/politics/in...

While funding schools should be done similar to a business, teaching and learning is not a business (unless you ask the testing industry and Educrats, who are salivating at the thought of making mad money off of children-while not supplying the data that supports their agenda...none exists).

Education is an investment in a social program that benefits society as a whole. The quality yields are not known for years into the future. Demanding that every student "perform" like a circus animal on a given date, at an expected quality outcome is not only ignorant, but also irresponsible. If you're a parent of more than one child, did your children walk, talk, eat, read, and turn out exactly the same...even though they had the same parent(s)? I'll bet the house that the answer is .....an emphatic.....NO.

Charters, vouchers, Teach for America, the Rhee, Gates, Broad & Koch Bros agenda and cheaping the teaching profession will not improve education. There is no data that supports any of their approaches.

The present "profit game" and cult of standardized testing will not attract the "'best and the brightest" to the teaching profession. In fact, it is doing the opposite. How many of the recent top 10 high school grads are planning on a career in education? Why? Appeal & prestige. Eventually, THAT will trickle down to charters and religious schools.

ohreally

This is yet another sad result of our governor and his cronies stealing to get richer while the majority of citizens loses more.

Spring Lake has been a fiscally responsible district. They don't go crazy in what they are spending money on. Heck look at their school buses. There aren't too many other districts around running school buses from 1991 and 1993. We have a staff that is impeccable and test scores to reflect it, yet according to Lansing, teachers are "pigs" and "hogs" according to Rep. Lisa Lyons.

This is getting old and something needs to give. I encourage everyone to head to the capitol tomorrow for the "Save Public Education" rally that begins at 11:30. Let the government know that enough is enough.

Peter56

ohreally you had me till you went a political.

Highlander

What was inappropriate if you agree with the rest of Oh Really's post. The part about going to the capitol and practicing our 1st Amendment? The part about seeing something that's clearly broken and deciding to try and do something about it, rather than just complain?

Frankly, that's patriotic, responsible and passionate. Most people just sit on the computer and throw around their unsupported ignorance. I give Oh, Really credit for being a part of the democratic process, and respect.

Lanivan

Peter56 - "..till you went political". It's all about politics - the far right agenda has been to demonize our teachers, administrators, and staff; cut education funding as a first step in any budget process; bemoan teacher's unions and place the blame for decreased state revenue squarely on their shoulders as a first line of defense; and all without so much as batting an eye when cutting in half the corporate tax rate, eliminating a cool billion+ in state revenue.

Zegota

Give me, give me, give me more, spend, spend and spend some more. Just when will it stop, or can it, I love Charter Schools and I love private schools. If they can do it, why not the public schools, it is simple, they believe in more, they believe in spending and rewarding. Public Schools are a small picture of the much larger picture in Washington D.C., spend and spend some more. Borrowing is the new game in town, because our children can pay for our mistakes. God Help Us.

Highlander

Zegota- got any data to support any of your claims? How many charters or pvt schools in the top 10? How about in the top 25? Top 75?
http://www.usnews.com/education/...

Read some of the things I wrote and think. Our children will be paying for a $trillion decade of war and more trillions from bailing out Wall St, banks and cororations. And you're whining (without any data) about supplying an education and pencils for our children? God help us.

moose

Let's see...what's the difference between a charter school, private school, and a local public school?

Charters and private schools don't offer transportation. That's a huge budget item that public schools deal with. I bet that eliminating transportation would help relieve budget woes.

Many (not all) charters and private schools don't offer special ed. services, and special education students cost more to educate. (Before someone takes me to task, yes I know charters are required to offer services to their students, but frequently special ed. students are either not admitted or counseled out to a local public school that offers better sp.ed. services. Public schools, therefore, end up with much higher percentages of special needs students.)

However, here's the thing, and it really comes down to your vision of America: Do you believe that every child in the country deserves an opportunity to an equal education?

Do you believe that we are better off when our populace is well-educated, or do you believe that education is something that only the wealthy or well-connected are entitled to?

I believe that every kid deserves an opportunity to be educated. Sometimes that means we have to spend money to do things their parents can't afford - get them to school, feed them lunch, or even provide extra assistance at school. My kids have two well-educated, middle-class parents...lucky them. Life will be much easier for them as a result. However, if you don't have the resources to help your kid as much as I can help mine, I think it's society's responsibility to step in and help - not because I think public school is a charity project, but because WE ARE BETTER OFF in a well-educated society.

I agree, our children pay for our mistakes. We're not talking about issuing treasury bonds to pay for schooling, we're talking about stepping up and paying the cost to educate them, so they have a better future.

ohreally

Peter56 I probably could have left that last piece out, but it gets frustrating when people are making the responsible choices and then are punished for it. My comment definitely leans and I am aware of that, however sitting back and doing nothing is just as bad as letting the actions take place. I will state that I do not intend to try and influence others to believe what I believe, but I did absolutely intend to express my thoughts on what I believe to be a sad story of more people busting their chops to make ends meet and their jobs being slashed unnecessarily. I was a para for SL schools and I promise you they don't make much money but have a very important place in those buildings. It's not right. Peter56 thanks for your feedback honestly. I hope you still were able to take away the purpose behind my comment. Have a great day!

newspaperlawyer

Find out how many of the State of Michigan Reps, Senators, and Executive branch send their kids to private schools???? Like Gov Snyder sends his kids to a non public school... and the gets $20,000.00 per child....

hautecouture

ohreally... I disagree with you. I do not think SL has been financialy responsible. If they had been, they would not be in this situation. I am a graduate of SLHS (it's been a few years), but I definitely think they could cut back in certain areas (when I was a student I saw so many things that I personally thought were a waste of money, and I was a teenager (someone who wasn't even smart with my own money). They have a problem if they cannot stick to their budget. Maybe the highest paid 2-3 employees could take a tiny paycut? The jobs that will be lost are mostly by employees who do not receive the pay and benefits that teachers do and I assume most of them are probably people who really need their jobs. It's unethical (to me) to do this every year when the district fails to stay within it's budget, it's not the paraprofessionals' fault that the district cannot stay within their means financially.

Just my opinion. Oh and I also think that the fact that the busses are older has nothing to do with this... that proves nothing in regards to their spending habits! When I was in high school the busses worked just fine.

This is the same district that wants to spend how many MILLIONS for new elementary schools?!?! The SAME people who are pushing for the new school(s) should each volunteer to take a 1% paycut!

And yes, I agree with Peter, please leave politics out of this unless your goal is to offend others.

BTL2A

Between having to pay an increased amount for Heathcare and retirement all employees took a much larger effective paycut than 1%.

You can't ask the staff to put more of the burden on their shoulders.

Comparing a schools budget to a personal budget is foolish. Are you being asked to support more and more people with less money? Also do you have to answer to a community that does not want to see a decreased product?

If you can develope a way to retain and attract new teachers, for less and less money, while asking them to do more in a world with increasing cost, well you sir, will have a successful career.

Also please share the number of ways to save money, you never know who will read these and might spark change.

hautecouture

I am not a sir, sir.

I'm sorry you feel that me comparing a school's budget to a personal budget is foolish. I think your thinking is foolish. A budget is a budget, no matter if it's a personal budget, a government budget, school budget, etc, etc... don't spend money you don't have and you won't be in the red. It's the same concept whether it applies to personal finances or business related.

BTL2A

They operated years within their budget. You seem to be ignoring the fact that their budget has been cut by 1,000,000+. They have an increasing number of students and expenses increase. They aren't like a typical business, they can decrease the size of their product and sell it for the same amount to stay profitable.

I get your Ipad argument, but they haven't bought Ipads for every student yet so that is not a contributing factor in the budget deficit. The fact that they've been talking about it for years and still haven't gone through shows fiscal responsibility.

You stated you seen many of things that were wasteful, but you haven't given a specific example. Where is the money being wasted currently. Not potentially, but currently.

Ignorance is bl...

A friend of mine who works for SLPS said that the IPads and other tech recently acquired was done so to pilot usage and the efficiency of usage, most/all of the money which paid for the New tech came from grants.

ohreally

Haute please be specific in your comments pertaining to financial irresponsibility. I would love to know what as a HS student, you thought was a waste of money. When I think back to my time at SLHS I cannot think of wasteful spending at all.

I can however, explain where SLHS has absorbed a lot of costs. One, the maintenance of their buses absolutely plays into this. I'm not sure if you are aware, but a new school bus runs around 80,000. SL runs about 25 buses. The last set of new buses were purchased with bond money and prior to that, they replaced 5 of their buses with used GH buses. The reason I am stating this is because many districts cycle their buses out every 10ish years and have buses written into their budget. If SL took this approach, they would be purchasing 2-3 buses each year. At 80,000 a piece (this is a cheap bus), you are looking at an annual savings of $200,000 right there.

SL has also saved a great deal in negotiations with their teacher's union and their teaching contracts. Some cost savings has come based on new legislation, however their teachers (and other groups) have made concessions to help out in the school. SL has absorbed positions through attrition, reduced some programming, privatized, made cuts in administration, and I'm sure other cuts that I'm not aware of.

I wish I could understand your logic and displeasure with SLPS. I'm glad that the buses worked fine while you were at SLPS and I'm sure that in the few years since you have been gone those along with technology, infrastructure, and other things have completely stopped aging. I'm also fairly certain that in those few years since you graduated technology has not improved at all. I would also guess that since you graduated the state has not changed any mandates for graduation and if anything, it has gotten cheaper to educate.

Also the new elementary school is not a relative point at all. One, it has not been decided that this will even take place and two, this is not money that will come from the general fund, rather from voter approved funds from a bond. Yet another apples to oranges comparison. Also the people pushing for this are more than just Mr. Furton and administration. If you have followed SLPS at all in the news, you would see the forums taking place with literally over a hundred people FROM THE COMMUNITY in support of the school. These same people are the same people that worked to design a modest high school that you attended so that you were not being educated in a subpar building or portable classrooms (maybe you remember the 10+ portables in the now MS parking lot about 15 years ago.

I will agree with you on one piece however, it absolutely is not the paraprofessionals fault that the district is operating in the red. The district does not want to operate in the red, the district does not intentionally operate in the red, the district has an obligation to educate (which SL does a phenomenal job at doing) and that obligation costs money and costs continue to increase every year. Part of the reason for these cuts is more than just balancing the budget for this fiscal year, it is balancing the budget in coming years as well.

hautecouture

I disagree that it is comparing apples to oranges. If a district cannot function on a budget, that is a problem. If the school district WAS functioning on their budget there wouldn't be this problem every year. I would bet money there are far more people against a new elementary school, 100 people in favor of it really does nothing to my opinion, I know many who have children at one of the elementary schools and are firmly against it. You may think the new elementary school is not a relevant point, and that is your right... as I rightly think that the "old busses" complaint is not a relative point.

Also this is the same district that is pushing to give each student an ipad... and you're really trying to convince me that this district is financially responsible? The reason why I think you fail to see why I am unhappy with the district is likely the same reason as to why I am guessing we are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

If the school didn't want to operate "in the red," they wouldn't have this problem year after year. Thousands of school districts stick to their budget without having this end of the year layoff year after year, citing that they do not have proper funds. It's not like the district finds out their budget for the previous school year once the year is over.

ohreally

You may very well be correct on the elementary school piece, and we will see what the voters decide once it's on the ballot. I will agree with you that I was quite surprised by the "sticker shock" of the price for the new facility, but just like anything else, items have to be replaced. Computers get old, carpet gets worn, buildings become outdated. I'm not certain that two new elementary buildings (or one mega building) is necessary either, but the district is addressing these needs and the voters will decide if it's appropriate at this time.

You still did not provide examples (other than iPads currently) of wasteful spending back when you were in school. I truly am curious as to what you saw while in high school that you deemed as unnecessary. I did provide reasoning as to why SL's bus fleet was an example of a financially appropriate decision. They are not making a frivolous purchase every 10 years if it is not necessary (clearly it isn't or the buses that GH sold to SL 10 years ago would have died 9.5 years ago!)

I'm not really trying to convince you of anything. You are more than welcome to your opinion and I absolutely respect that. I have shown through my previous posts multiple examples of responsible spending by SL and you have yet to show me anything (other than the iPads, which has only happened in a select number of room)to demonstrate wasteful spending. As I see it, your examples are all "could bes" and thus far have not impacted the general budget at all. Now, if in two weeks, the Trib does a report titled "SL Schools Purchase iPads for All Students", I would absolutely concede this entire discussion to you. I also fail to see why you are unhappy other than it seems like you want an iPad (joking) but in all seriousness I really don't understand your discontent with the district.

All I'm asking is for you to show me that historically SL has had wasteful spending, particularly in the past 5 years. If you need to go back 10, that's fine too. By wasteful spending, we are talking dents to their general fund. Voter approved bonds and millages speak for themselves...it was a decision made by the majority, the community, not the administration or Board of Ed.

I'm assuming you understand how school funding works. Schools don't know their budget prior to the school year beginning. Does pupil count day sound familiar? Schools don't have a clue as to what they are getting until October. Then they go through it again in February and that seals up their funding for the current year. Remember too that the fiscal year ends June 30 and the school doesn't get a final number until FEBRUARY. So indeed they find out their budget fairly close to the end of the year for the prior school year. As far as "thousands" of districts not having layoffs year after year, check board meeting minutes, newspapers, and news channels between March and June. This week alone SL and GH both had to make the decision to lay off staff. Many districts have been fortunate to gather retirements and absorb those positions. I would guess that the majority of districts either have absorbed or laid off in the past 3-5 years at least one time.

hautecouture

Another thing I forgot to add something else to my argument that the district is not being financially responsible, isn't this the same district who is trying to get ipads for every student (at least elementary??), that seems like the last thing they should be trying to buy when they can't afford to pay all of their employees. I know at least 1-2 grades currently have an ipad for every student (an 8 year old doesn't need to be responsible for a $500 device, especially when the district is facing such hardships) . I personally am currently on a budget trying to take care of all of my finances and I am not out purchasing an ipad.

Highlander

Examples of waste HC? Specific areas. History and common knowledge says otherwise. SLPS could have built a palatial HS like others in Michigan, but chose to do what was needed, forgoing fancy fixtures, stadiums, and features that do not directly impact teaching & learning. There are hardly any examples of "plush living" in SLPS. For years, SLPS has avoided extravagance.

Funding from the state of Michigan continues to decrease while expenses continue to increase (gas for buses is 100%-150%+ more than what it was 10 years ago, as well as heating facilities, etc). Despite continually doing what's right for the district and for students, putting SLPS in the top 10 in the state and top 1% in the US, teachers, administrators and staff have taken wage cuts. Teachers, secretaries and coaches have volunteers their time and money for students in need. SLPS cut dedicated maintenance and para-pros & privatized lunch services (important parts of the educational puzzle), and the buildings are beginning to show the the effects.

SL's schools have not been upgraded with regards to technology in years- where other school districts have Smart boards, Ipads, etc. SLPS has spent $ intelligently on needs, and updating tech brilliantly, using tech money appropriately. SLPS has been way behind the tech curve because of state funding. Busses are old.

Before bashing SLPS, you may want to see what other districts have and how they have invested in the learning environment. SLPS doesn't have the corporate tax base that other districts have.

hautecouture

I'm not bashing the schools, I am a SL graduate and think most of the teachers are outstanding, the HS is beautiful, the district has great test scores, etc.., I'm being critical of those in charge of the money for being irresponsible and not following a budget, that doesn't mean I'm bashing the entire SLPS as you insinuate.

And you're wrong about technology, many students attending SLPS ALREADY HAVE IPADS, funded by the schools, the district is trying to get ALL students to have ipads... another waste of money when the district currently cannot afford it, an 8 yr old doesn't need an ipad at school!! And MANY high schools in the state do not even have a/c, so don't be telling me that SL is way behind on technology, their schools are pretty nice compared to MANY. Most people who have seen our HS have told me what a nice HS it is compared to the one in their town.

I know the busses are old, but I will say the same thing I would say to a teenager complaining about an "old car", if it's not violating any safety regulations, and it does the job, what is the problem?

Another thing that upsets me is that I have seen numerous postings for paraprofessionals ON the school's website this year... the same jobs that are now being eliminated. Someone messed up.

FUYC

Sure that all you rocket surgeons out there have several links, studies and a very well written article from the September 1967 issue of Family Planning Journal, but just for a split second let your minds wonder. Ready for this kooky theory...........privatize all schools and make the people who decided to thrust upon society these little jems that one encounters in Meijers pay for it. Fing crazy thinking. Realize that some of you are more than likely short of breath and scouring the Grand Haven by laws to see if I can burnt at the stake or the very least tar and feathered.

Want to apologize for any chest clutching, left arm numbness and I am sure that the forehead vein will subside with time.

LessThanAmused

Whew!....put down that bong and back away from the keyboard. You might want to look into taking an English class too. If you had to pay for it maybe you'd pay attention this time through......

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