By Ansley Prior
Bath-Dewittt Connection staff writer
BATH — For weeks, anticipation has been building around what Governor Rick Snyder’s finalized budget would look like. Extreme measures were expected, however the dramatic reduction in education funding was more than anyone was prepared for.
Snyder’s $45 billion proposal includes a $300 cut per pupil, in addition to the currently budgeted $170 per pupil reduction, resulting in a 4 percent drop in funding.
“The proposed cuts are much higher than I anticipated,” Bath High School Principal Matt Dodson said. “We have to see what the final cut will actually be, but $470 per student would be devastating to every school in Michigan.”
According to Superintendent Jake Huffman, Bath Schools begins the budgeting process a year ahead to try and avoid surprises. Undoubtably, this budget will be a challenge for the district to achieve.
“We figured there would be some additional cuts after the $170, but this is much more,” Huffman said. “The sooner we know the final amount, the better so we can address what we need to do to make it work.”
“Our board, specifically the finance committee, will be in constant communication with our administrative team,” Dodson said. Discussion has already begun on ways to cut the extra $300 if needed and this may be Bath’s key to success.
Huffman plans to present an outline of what both budgets would look like at the next school board meeting, with the hope that the final cut per student will be somewhere in between $170 and $470.
Snyder’s bold proposal also calls for the elimination of the state income tax exemption for pensions, causing an uproar with some in the retired community.
“It’s a tough decision for the legislature to make. Michigan is in a lot of financial trouble,” Huffman said. “At the same time this would take 4.5 percent out of their income. I just hope they can cope with that.”
Another effect the plan will have on schools is the shift in university funding from the general fund to the school aid fund, which is the primary source of funding for k-12 schools.
“When the school aid fund was set up it was set up for k-12, though the door was open for universities. The Legislature obviously doesn’t want tuition costs to skyrocket,” Huffman said. “I wish it wouldn’t happen, but I can see why it is.”
Still, Huffman is confident in Bath’s future.
“I can only hope they are fair to K-12 schools,” he said. “No matter what, we will do our best to provide a good product here in Bath.”