Ann Arbor school board passes budget that cuts 62.3 teachers, gives busing options
Ann Arbor high school students will have the option to take a bus to school in the 2011-12 school year and about 8 fewer teaching positions will be cut than originally anticipated, according to the budget passed by the school board Wednesday.
Trustees passed the $183 million budget by a 5-2 vote, filling a deficit that eventually grew to about $16 million. The budget originally included the elimination of high school transportation and 70 full-time teacher positions. The final budget passed Wednesday included high school transportation and eliminated 62.3 full-time teacher positions.
High school students will now have to use common bus stops, such as an elementary school or another centralized location, where buses will pick them up and take them to school in the morning and drop them off in the afternoon.
The move to common bus stops, along with enforcing the school board’s already existing policy of having no bus stops within a half-mile of each other and eliminating after-school shuttles are targeted to save $1 million. Eliminating high school transportation completely was expected to save about $1.4 million.
Interim superintendent Robert Allen said district officials wanted to fill cuts with replacements that both were cost-effective and made sense.
“What we tried to do was not just to bring things back but try to balance and get savings in other areas,” he said, “while still addressing some of the concerns the community had with not providing transportation at all.”
Trustee Glenn Nelson proposed an amendment to the budget that was approved to reduce the target from $1.3 million in transportation cuts to $1 million. The budget includes using $810,000 in reserve funds. District officials originally proposed $510,000 in reserve funds.
Trustee Christine Stead voted against the amendment and the entire budget because she disagreed with using more reserve funds to trim the cut to transportation. She said the district needs to save more money to protect itself against any unforeseen changes in school funding.
“I don’t think that’s the right direction at all,” she said.
Trustee Simone Lightfoot voted against the budget because she wanted more information before voting for the cuts to transportation service. She read a litany of concerns she had received from parents and families.
“If we put this out there and at least expose the public to the realities of the budget, we are potentially facing then we’ll have time to have more parent weigh-in,” she said.
The inclusion of high school transportation and the preservation of 7.7 teacher positions eliminated were steps back from two of the biggest cuts in the proposed budget. Along with sharing principals among four elementary schools, the school board and district administrators ended up reducing the three most controversial portions of the 2011-12 proposed budget.
The budget is set up to deal with the new $300 per pupil cut and a $170 per pupil cut approved by the state legislature last month. In addition, retirement costs are expected to increase by about $230 per pupil.
The school district will receive a one-time payment of $2.4 million from the state to help with increasing retirement costs. If the district meets four of five best practices set up by the state, Ann Arbor could receive an additional $1.6 million in state funding.
By the end of the meeting, which came after 1 a.m. Thursday, each trustee wore expressions of frustration and fatigue.
Stead said she refused to leave the meeting thinking the district ended up with a victory by seeing the cuts to the district lessened.
“This is insanity,” she said. “This incites anger, at least in me. This is what we’re talking about tonight, this is our budget and it’s because we haven’t addressed the structural issue and surely only the state can address the structural issue.”
The budget includes no layoffs of full-time teachers, with all of the position reductions coming through attrition and negotiations with the Ann Arbor Education Association.
According to AAEA president Brit Satchwell, the negotiated contract changes were a one-year suspension of 150 hours per week of open library time for kindergarten through eighth grades, a one-year suspension of the contractual requirement to add one more media specialist at Skyline and a one-year reduction for media specialists for Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and Stone School.
The budget assumes that about 8 full-time teachers will leave the district in some way between now and the beginning of school.
“If we use historical data, we’re fairly confident that between now and the start of school, the other 8 would come through,” Allen said.
The biggest issue trustees faced during this budget process — and will continue to deal with — was the inability to raise revenue locally for the district.
Although district officials presented multiple slides of budget cuts in their presentation, there were just three ways revenue could be enhanced — adding students via Schools of Choice openings, raising prices for parking at Pioneer High School during University of Michigan football games and receiving retirement funding from the state.
The inability to levy taxes on a district level severely limits what local districts like Ann Arbor can do, trustee Irene Patalan said.
Until then, trustees will continue to look to Lansing in disappointment, she said.
“While I really respect our efforts to do something locally honestly, state of Michigan, you’re going to get what you pay for,” Patalan said.