2012-05-27 / News

STC Schools anticipate staff adjustments

BY HILLARY GRIGONIS STAFF REPORTER

ST. CHARLES – Decreasing student numbers and uncertainty over the state’s K-12 school budget proposals highlighted the discussion at Wednesday’s St. Charles school board meeting as the district prepares to adopt the 2012-13 budget next month.

The schools are currently anticipating a budget deficit of about $400,000, though those numbers could change based on the funding proposals currently in the state government. Wallace explained to the board that the Senate wants to increase the foundation allowance for the schools that receive the least amount of per pupil aid, which would benefit St. Charles. Last year, the district received $6,846 per student while some Michigan districts had over $13,000 in per pupil aid. The House is proposing to put additional funds in the school retirement fund, which could reduce retirement costs for districts, but depending on how much costs are reduced, St. Charles could benefit or could face further loss.

“What I don’t like about these two plans,” Wallace said, “is that there are winners and losers.”

Because of the various proposals at the state level, the district is unsure of next year’s financial picture, but anticipating a large deficit.

Earlier, the district issued four layoff notices and reduced three other positions.

To prevent further layoffs and possibly recall some staff, the board voted unanimously on two packages that encourage retirement or voluntary severance.

For staff that turn in their retirement notification by May 31 for retirement effective June 30, staff will be paid $50 for each unused sick day. The staff currently has a similar provision in their contract, only retiring staff must notify the district by Jan. 30 to receive the benefit; that window has now been extended until the end of May.

The board also approved a voluntary severance package which allows some employees who voluntarily resign a $15,000 severance pay. Depending on the number of employees who take the severance package, some of the laid off staff could be recalled.

“It is going to get harder before it gets easier,” Wallace said. “...but we are trying to do what is best for our district and our kids. It has to be about the kids.”

The budget will also include providing a county-wide Emotionally Impaired (EI) program.

The district currently sends EI students outside of the district to receive the proper program; by adding their own EI program, they will save money by keeping some of their own students in the district and earn additional revenue by taking in students for the program from other Saginaw County districts. The change has allowed the district to prevent one layoff.

Along with declining revenues, the district also faces challenges due to a drop in student numbers. In 2000, the district had 1330 students; currently, there are 1060 in the buildings, plus about 40 virtual students. The decline, Wallace said, is mainly due to birth rates, as fewer kindergardeners enter the school system than the number of seniors graduating. In two years, the district expects to be at about 1000 students.

Wallace said the district is looking at a long range reduction situation to realign staff based on the smaller student body.

The board plans to discuss the budget and possible future reductions during a community forum on June 6 at 6 p.m. in the high school/middle school cafetorium.

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