By Kelly Reeves
Meridian Times staff writer
In the most recent State of the State Address on Feb 17, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a budget cut that would reduce spending for public schools by 4%, about $470 per student.
Robert Clark, director of accounting for Okemos Public Schools said, “We have been dealing with the prospect of this for months. It’s not a surprise at all, but the magnitude of the cuts is more than we had planned for and it’s problematic.”
“We have been assembling a list of cut possibilities over the past few years in anticipation for this kind of a problem happening, and it is for certain there will be substantial cuts within the district. We’ll probably cover a whole range of cut options over the next few months,” said Clark.
John Hood, Kinawa 5-8 principal, said, “Many factors are converging that make this potentially devastating for districts: loss of enrollment, increasing costs and decreasing funding. We are running much more efficiently, but are now also providing less programming and support for students, in a time when we are seeing increased student needs.”
Clark explained that Okemos Public School District has a fund balance at the end of each fiscal year on June 30.The fund balance is an accumulation of the difference between revenue and expense over time, and builds up over the years to create a ‘safety net.’
Financial professionals suggest maintaining a 10-15% fund balance Clark said, and the State of Michigan requires that a school district stay above water, or at some level of positive fund balance.
The projected fund balance for Okemos on June 30, 2011, is about $1.8 million, around 4% of expenditures.
With the governor’s proposed funding cuts, along with other cost increases, Okemos’s projected 2012 fund balance is a negative $ 3.5 million.
That means the Okemos Board of Education is faced with the challenge of finding at least that level of budget cuts.
If the board determines it wants to keep, for example, $1 million in fund balance, then it would need $4.5 million in cuts.
There will be considerable cuts in Okemos schools, and where those cuts occur is up to the school board, said Clark.
Hood said that it is the district’s job to make sure that all students learn, even during difficult times.
“Frustration increases as more is mandated with less support, when past cuts are not deep enough and that which remains to be cut strikes at the core of the values of our community and professionals. But we must make sure our students learn. This is their chance and we cannot fail them,” said Hood.