Township, schools work together to deal with budget cuts

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By Maddie Fetchiet
Holt Journal staff writer

HOLT — One year after Gov. Rick Snyder cut $895 million from the K-12 school budget, the school district along with Delhi Township are working to ease the stress on teachers, students and other school employees.

In February 2011, Snyder proposed a bill that cut state aid from K-12 schools to reduce Michigan’s $1.5 billion debt. Proposed cuts included bus drivers, school custodians, and after-school programs.

However, the school district has worked closely with the township over the past year to keep communication open and, more importantly, to reduce costs.

According to Roy Sweet, treasurer of Delhi Township, Snyder asked local governments to share services as a result of funding reduction for schools. That saves taxpayers money and helps the school cut costs.

“Parks and Recreation shares soccer fields with the schools, and the township also mows the fields cheaper than it would cost the school district,” Sweet said.

Other services are shared among Delhi Township and surrounding townships. Mutual aid agreements allow the townships to share  firefighting.

Sweet says the township is doing what it can to compensate for the funding reduction to the schools by picking up work that the school district would otherwise pay.

The Phase II Storm Water project, which would normally be paid for by the schools, has been taken by the township, according to Sweet. The project is a federal program helping to preserve Michigan’s water resources.

“We have a great relationship with the school district and always have, “ Sweet said.

However, Snyder’s budget cuts are not the only cutbacks affecting the schools. While the state cut $470 per pupil, an extra $300 per pupil was cut when federal stimulus money was not renewed, according to Holt school District’s executive finance director, Kim Cosgrove.

Cosgrove says it is uncertain if layoffs are imminent until the 2012 budget is released later this month. So far the school district has refrained from layoffs.

“Before we started laying off people we wanted to take a year to see the ramifications,” Cosgrove said.

To keep the communication open with the locals, the school board has established 22 community forums that are held to discuss the district’s financial timelines. The board has met with booster clubs, rotary clubs, and has held employer forums twice this fiscal year to keep communication open, according to Cosgrove.

Delhi Township shared the pain of budget cuts.

“Public employees have to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums as a result of budget cuts, and the township is trying to meet that goal, but it can’t happen right away,” Sweet said.

Snyder will release the state budget for this year Feb. 9. Then, Cosgrove will announce budget plans for the year.