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Posted on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Ann Arbor schools to address $16M budget shortfall at April meetings

By Danielle Arndt

Ann Arbor administrators will reveal their plans for fixing a $16 million budget shortfall at the Board of Education’s April 18 Committee of the Whole meeting, officials said Wednesday.

Subsequently, the budget will be placed on the April 25 regular meeting agenda.

In January, Superintendent Patricia Green told she and her cabinet expected to make their presentation and recommendation to the board in February.


Christine Stead

In February, it was said the budget would be forthcoming in March.

Dates were set Wednesday after Trustee Christine Stead once again expressed a need to have a list made public very soon, detailing both sides — revenues and expenditures — of the financial equation, as well as a list of items most likely to be cut.

“My thinking is this: People appreciate the budget reductions we are going to have to make next year … and are starting to get concerned,” Stead said.

She urged administrators to move up the timeline on the budget discussions and encouraged the board to make a decision this school year.

“Otherwise we are left hoping people are paying attention over the summer,” she said, acknowledging this likely is not the case and people “get a lot of surprises in the fall.”

She said it is time to “rip the Band-Aid off and start the healing.” She would like to see the board working with the community on the cuts in May and June.

Green has said at previous board meetings she will be recommending Ann Arbor use a hearty portion of its $19.7-million fund balance to close the budget gap for 2012-13. She has advocated for a “balanced approach,” which would include bold moves as well as dipping into savings.

Initially in the fall, AAPS projected it would be facing a $14-million budget shortfall in 2012-13. The decision to move to all-day kindergarten increased the shortfall by about $2 million.

Read previous budget coverage here.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

We cut costs for food service, bus drivers, and teachers, but we have the highest paid Super in the state, we have added an admin and raised salaries for other admins. and we hire endless consultants. Time to cut our losses on the new Super. Managing resources is a fundamental job skill for that role, and real leadership is needed. These are missing elements.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

Just like I said before, I would love to see an Emergency Mgr go thru Balais. What a clean house that would be.

Basic Bob

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

With that huge salary, the school board agreed to pay her extra to not take the health insurance. Must be she has lifetime benefits after retiring from her last job. We are paying a lot of money for someone to watch Mr. Allen run the district.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Elephant in the room---administration.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

And when the new Super in Chelsea just signed on for 128,000 a year, you quickly realize Dr. Greene is highly overpaid! They continue to ask teachers to do more, yet Balas keeps hiring more people to do what? Clearly the cuts need to start at the top, and work there way down.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

I guess the tax assessor is on vacation or something. Get that person out there and raise the value of property in Ann Arbor. You hold the real solution to the deficit. We the property leasors comprising some 35% of Ann Arbor can easily carry the freeloaders. NOOOOOOOT!!!!!! How about closing some schools that are underused? I know you could sell them so that in the future we can build schools that cost even more and are outside of Ann Arbor. I wonder how the people that don't pay their fair share in taxes to support our expensive school system feel? There is no corrilation between school funding and property lease payments. That is right lease payments because the government will evict you and confiscate your property when you don't make your lease payment. TRY IT.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:14 a.m.

So what do you teachers suggest to save the schools? I would like to know.

Jack Panitch

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

DonBee: You have many ideas that merit a lot of thought. But you have already prejudged the outcome on the basis of no data: the plan isn't even out there yet. That's the issue. The community needs to see the proposals and needs to consider what fell on the cutting room floor and needs to play with the pieces and try to get comfortable with how it will all play out; and there needs to be a dialogue, not a monologue, with community members provided an opportunity to engage District planners in conversation well before decisions are made. That approach will engender trust, and we need that environment of trust, not cynicism. It is cynical and wrong to attempt to persuade folks that the District has shown poor stewardship because it spends more per student than other local districts. If we face the tough choices with clarity, not ideology or prejudgment, on the merits, not on the soundbites, our children will be a lot better off in the end. Trustee Stead's actions suggest that she understands and supports the need for transparency in the process and the need to foster an environment of greater trust by getting the community back into the process now. Would you be willing to support that approach on the merits with constructive criticism? I'm betting you would. You have that responsibility as an opinion leader.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Jack - I love the swipe, someone from my household is at almost every board meeting, someone from my household is involved in several school based boards and committees. When I am in town, I do attend meetings, otherwise, how would have the knowledge of what happened? You tried for the school board, congratulations. Please try again, we can use the new blood. If I did not travel for work, I would run, I feel that strongly. Until I either find a local job or retire, running for the school board would be a disservice to the parents in the district.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 11:02 a.m.

I agree with Jack, Ann Arbor offers so much more then any district in probably SE Michigan. So trying to compare our spending to others is a little off track. Secondly, when you have a public school in a college town, I am guessing the emphasis on education is always going to be higher, thus funding will be needed. Maybe AAPS needs to cut athletics, or all music programs, and then 1/2 of the languages. Point I am trying to make is that all the extras that the district offers makes our district unique and desirable. But with all those extras, the money needs to be there to support it. Is it time to cut the extras? I am guessing that won't fly in this town at this time!


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:41 a.m.

The teachers sold out the cafeteria workers. This did not work. Then they looked at transportation. They said they were on our side. They sold them out too. Custodians? You are next in line to be sold out. Once that is done? Balais. Take a look at the costs to keep them sitting pretty. Going to be a long cold hard fight.

Jack Panitch

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

DonBee's comment needs clarification. "AAPS outspends every other district in the county on a per student basis," because we were placing a greater emphasis on education spending in 1994, and we still do, because we have greater costs, due to our particular population and because we provide greater choice and educational opportunity. The other Districts in the County are not comparable, and without appropriate comparables, the argument is nonsense. I watch ideologically driven folk stand just outside the circle of responsible participation with accelerant in one hand and an ignition source in the other, railing at one of our community's greatest civic accomplishments (how we prepare all our children to take the reins when we are gone), waiting for the right opportunity to bring it all down and remake it in their own image. Nobody is bigger than the community: the community decides. There is no question that the funding is shrinking each year, and the School Board and administration have the thankless job of matching community priorities with available dollars. And they have done that job each year, keeping us well-within our means. Last year was a little rough at the edges with the District asking Robert Allen to work more than his usual magic, hold down two jobs on one salary, and keep the organization going. The District hasn't even presented any proposals (hence, Trustee Stead's sense of urgency) and DonBee is already out there with the criticism. Treating public education as a "teardown" is not the way: since we have to contract, we have to do so intelligently in keeping with the community's priorities and students' best interests. And as soon as we can work up the political will, K12 education funding needs to grow.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

Margery - That is 3% (that was the size of the cut). A return of that 3 percent would not even begin to close the "budget gap" that AAPS has, the total would be less than $5 million, leaving at least 11 million to go. AAPS outspends every other district in the county on a per student basis. If they can't make due, what are the other districts doing?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:35 a.m.

Well, there are some obvious solutions like asking our governor to restore the enormous sum of money he transferred from the school funds in order to finance his corporate tax cuts. The future of our economic strength is in education, which is obvious, I think, so if we disinvest in education, we strip our state of the future work force. The United States is already falling behind international educational standards in a rather shocking way and it really can't continue. So more state investment; more effective budgeting by administrators, cutting out duplicated admin services, etc. If chopping has to take place, it can't be by cutting teachers' salaries, but by cutting back on the pork at the level of administration. Teachers are the middle class, buddy, not the elite in this country and that is something you really need to study before you simply presume that the "unions" are always the problem. The unions have already been crushed, as you'll note from some of the posts here. So maybe you find that a good thing but watch Michigan fall behind many other states in the next decade in terms of educational preparation for professions and college study. Seriously kids learn from teachers not from machines, so cutting back on their quality, their dedication, and on the ability to recruit top students to this profession will really harm the schools.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:01 a.m.

Sounds like we need an Emergency Manager put in place. Someone call and alert Rick about this.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

So would I, jns131, so would I.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:42 a.m.

I'd love to see what an emergency manager has to say about the cost of keeping the admins sitting pretty up in Balais.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

Looks like the major problem here is the teacher union.........bring in an emergency manager and eliminate the union..........problem solved.

Basic Bob

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

@Margery, "Teachers are barely holding their own in the middle-class these days...paid less than many assembly line workers. Obviously you don't know any assembly line workers or real middle class people. You have a long way to fall before you drop out of the middle class. But keep buying those Toyotas we see in the staff parking lot, things will get worse.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

"It's all about the kids". So sayeth the Union.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:53 a.m.

sh1 & J.A. Pieper - General raises were frozen, the step table is still in effect, so if you have steps in the table yet to take, there are raises available. For those of you who are not aware, the step table rewards teachers two ways, another degree or more years. The years run out at 13 (plus 2 additional steps for longevity) and the degrees run to 2 PhDs. Roughly half of the teachers in the district have max'ed out the longevity part. Yes, the cost of benefits has gone up, but any one in a job in the Michigan area with benefits and not a member of the UAW has seen sharp increases in what they pay for benefits, and the deductibles on health care and prescriptions also rise sharply. So teachers are feeling the same increases that the rest of the taxpayers feel.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1 a.m.

So what do you teachers suggest to save the schools? I would like to know.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:57 a.m.

Pick, as a long time AAPS teacher, my salary is going down, and I am paying a pretty sizable chunk for benefits. There will be additional cuts, and districts will be looking to have us senior people leave. What you don't realize is that the teachers who have 10 to 15 years less seniority than me are making five to six thousand dollars more than I am. So the highest paid teachers aren't in position to retire, even though there are many who want to leave education. Newsweek once had an article that showed of all the student who go to college, the bottom 20 % are where the education candidates come from. Wonder why? What does this say about future educators, who is going to want to become an educator in a society that does not value what teachers do? The colleges and universities have increased the number of candidates in their programs, to anyone who can and is willing to pay the $$$$. Other requirements fall lower on the expectations for teacher educators. Combine all of this, and think about the state of education in the future. I am not saying everything is perfect in education now, but with less pay, non supportive parents, a highly judgmental society, the best and the brightest will be looking into other careers. Pick, if you are a parent, or maybe a grand parent, I would be concerned about the future of education in America. Remember, you get what you pay for... and yes, I do believe firmly that AAPS has to be more realistic about the cuts they have to make, and the $$$$ they want to have as an additional tax ( the tech bond issue, $56 million), this is so unrealistic to expect tax payers to take on in this economy.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:51 a.m.

Please explain the basis for this presumption aside from some rather strong contempt for unions in general. Teachers are barely holding their own in the middle-class these days. My partner is a teacher in another district; holds a PhD and is paid less than many assembly line workers. The teacher have compromised salary and benefits to save jobs of their colleagues in Ann Arbor; in her district the teachers took a 20% salary/benefits cut and received one hour day added instructional time. If you calculate what that cut really means, they are doing 1/6 more work every day (teaching 35 kids more per day and completing the grading that goes along with that) for 20% less pay. Is that good enough for you? Why don't you actually investigate the current situation of MI teacher and how it is affecting the quality of education in this state before presuming that the unions are the cause of every financial problem the district faces? So are you an advocate of hiring teachers from commercial agencies and making sure they are the cheapest possible hires? Imagine how the quality of our educational institutions will spiral downward!


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

Class sizes are bigger, salaries are frozen after a cut, teachers are paying more for their benefits and much more of a sacrifice should they make?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.

The teachers are making to much money and the tax payers can't afford to pay them this much given the current economic conditions. They must take cuts or face elimination.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.

How is the union a problem? They bargained in good faith according to the rules and took big hits in order to reach the current contract.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

I seriously question whther we need whether we need 7 high schools in this community. Why can't Community, Roberte Clemente, and Stone School be folded into Skyline? It seems to me that is the best way to cove the $24 Million shortfall and at the same time begin to expose the students to a quality education. As a taxpayer, I can't vote for a tech millage until I am sure that school administrators have solved his issue.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

They are going to save money by not replacing teachers who retire at the ned of the year. When they begin to add Kindergarten classes, schools won't hire new people, they will hire within. All of the above will cause higher class size, combination (split) classes at the elementary level, and overcrowding in electives at secondary level. Then when the tech bond doesn't pass, that money will have to come from somewhere, or add the the already big budget crunch. Need to find revenue, whether it is closing or selling a school(s). The administrators need to take pay cuts like Dr. Roberts did a few years back as a good faith showing. The tech bond needs to pass, regardless of what we think about our higher up and their terrible decisions. Get rid of NWEA, it cost money. Cut out all unnecessary consultants. Take a look at re-districting, maybe money can be saved in bus transportation. And let Gov. Snyder know that when he raided the K-12 fund, he really screwed many districts, including Ann Arbor.

Dog Guy

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Ann Arbor schools to address $16M budget shortfall at April meetings. But will they address this shortfall to mail it to Lansing or to Washington or to Ann Arbor property owners? Any surplus belongs to AAPS admins; any shortfall to anyone else.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

I have said it before, and I will reiterate: Taking a large portion of the $14 million budget shortfall from the $19.7 million fund equity is a VERY shortsighted move. That account, short new revenues, will not be growing anytime soon. And, it is likely we have not seen the worst of the hard times. All it is is a band-aid solution to avoid making the hard, unpopular choices that need to be made.

Ben C

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

DoBee has it right. The problem is that the most experienced, qualified, and highest paid teachers will be slowly but surely eliminated in favor of entry level teachers who are compensated less to save money. And the quality of education will remain "Exceptional?" While the school administration assumes they can pull the "wool over our eyes" with sound bytes and rhetoric they are mistaken. Any person with a business background is seeing right through their plans. Yes, labor costs are a significant part of the overhead, as with any business. But if businesses allowed "substitute" workers on a regular basis the business would be "out of business" shortly - probably bankrupt. The AAPS system is deeply flawed and needs a major overhaul. Until this happens my daughter will receive her education elsewhere.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

Ben C - That is not the way the union contract works, the Oldest, longest in the district get to stay. It is the young teachers who are out the door. Seniority rules in layoffs. If there is a position left a teacher is qualified on paper to fill and they have the seniority, they stay - the less senior teacher walks.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

And what about the highly compensated ones who get that kind of pay because the ubion says they are entitled to it. The bad ones get paid the same as the good ones. Let parents and students evaluate each teacher every year and if they can't straighten it out in three years let them go and bring in some younger and more enthusiastic ones. We have made it si that in this country if you are lucky enough to get a job as a "public servant" and hand in there long enough you are set for life; even if you have a bad attitude and achieve at the lowest level possible to keep that job.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

How about charging people the cost difference to go to Clemente? Last I checked, it cost over 23k per student to run, when other schools are at the 9k per student? If I have to "pay to play" to balance the budget, others should pay for their own "extra" cost. How about making Special Education more efficient? Spending $76k per student, compared to 5.3k per student for basic needs is outrageous. That is over 14 times more per student. I'm sorry, but we don't get the bang for the buck there.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.

They need Clemente. This is a school of last resort. This is for children who can't handle regular school and/or in trouble at regular hi school. If it were not for them? They would be out on the street or in some reform school. Clemente does what it does, get children back on track. Stone school does the same thing.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

Wow, the bigotry and racism in this town are mind-boggling. The "Arizona solution" is facing one legal setback after another, if you haven't noticed. It's a fantasy of a really racist sheriff. You might wish our town would follow that path, but fortunately we have many more tolerant and curious residents. Wait to wait Arizona's entire "solution" be legally dismantled in the next couple of years. Dream on.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8 p.m.

belboz - 1) Special education is mandated by law. So, we have to provide it. The costs are mostly reimbursed from state, federal and WISD sources, so it will not solve much of any of the "Budget Problem" - reduce the cost and reimbursement money disappears. 2) Clemente is too expensive, but the program is really important. Combining Clemente in the same building with Tech (formerly Stone School) would reduce the overhead significantly without damaging the program. Making the program County wide and increasing the number of students in the program would also reduce costs - but not to the $9K range.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

It's probably $40K per "graduate" for prison.......I like what they do in Arizona; large fences and tents. If that's not enough to make you want to study harder I don't know what is.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

I absolute agree, it's definitely time to "rip the band-aid off". With the addition of Skyline HS Community HS is no longer necessary and a luxury we cannot afford. Close Community and sell off the land – problem solved.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

Good suggestion and I second that motion..........


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

I'll "see" Stephen's comment and add close 20% of the oldest schools. We are running on average ~73% of capacity.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

Two words; close Community.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

Why did I just hear a violin play?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

I don't think people who want Community closed "dislike" the nonconformist kids. I think many, myself included, think it is unfair that someone "chooses" Community, yet takes advantage of many things the "big box schools" have to offer-----having their cake and eating it too so to speak. Those going to the bigger schools sacrifice developing "real human relationships with their teachers" in favor of things the bigger schools have to offer. What are Community students sacrificing? Seems like they get the best of both worlds. And doesn't it cost at least one dime to bus those kids to the other schools for classes? Maybe I am wrong about that?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:42 a.m.

This is an absurd suggestion: as has repeatedly been shown, this school spends not one dime more on its students than the other high schools and it is the one school that is constantly in much greater demand than its capacity. Did you ever read the calculations as to what the district would save if CHS were actually closed? Not very much! Moreover, students actually like being able to take classes with their teachers more than once; to develop real human relationships with their teachers; to be allowed to leave campus and acquire life skills unlike the lockdown atmosphere at the large schools. I have had kids in both Pioneer and Community and would say that both provide excellent education. The stupid mistake was adding a third full high school. We didn't need Skyline. It is the real outlier school, not CHS, but I am not going to play your game and call for it to be closed. All of you who want to close CHS just dislike kids who aren't total conformists and who need a less rigid environment to discover their personal and academic strengths. You obviously don't have a kid who went there or know anyone in your neighborhood or family who did or you wouldn't make such uninformed comments.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.

I'd say close Skyline... we never needed another high school.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

The budget shortfall is again mostly made up, not of falling revenue, but rising personnel costs. The current revenue for AAPS per student from all sources will be equal to or higher than it was in 2011-12. 2011-12 was the first time in more than a decade that the actual revenue fell, but the district continues to claim that they have to cut the budget every year. The administrators received raises, more money was spent on consultants and other money was redirected away from the classroom. $700,000 was used for non-qualified dependent health care over the last couple of years. Funds that could have been used to make buildings more energy efficient or fix the technology infrastructure was instead spent for new Varsity sports facilities. Yes, the budget discussions are important, but I can tell you now what the administration will start with - cutting teachers. The standard answer for the district. At roughly $100,000 per teacher in total cost (salary and benefits) the district will probably suggest 100 teachers be cut to save $10 million dollars. This is the wrong answer. There are other places to cut, but with the finances for 2011-12 not posted (only the approved budget was ever posted, the quarterly statements are not on the website), it is difficult to make specific suggestions. I am sure this is exactly what the BOE and administration wants - keep the public in the dark. The "sky is falling" in April articles will of course be used to energize voters to pass the May technology millage. It is the way it works.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

Ben C - I like the idea of local funding, if all schools could come up with the same amount of money per student in funding. Unfortunately this is not true in Michigan. Many communities do not have the ability to do this. Without the equality in funding, we have inequality or discrimination. As to teachers and brain surgeons, right now it turns out robots are better for brain surgery according to current reports, yes they were programmed by human brain surgeons. Does that mean I want a robot in the classroom? No, I don't - I want an engaged, knowledgable teacher who will challenge EVERY child in the room to do their absolute best. That takes energy and a lack of bias. Most teachers have plenty of both. But, when they don't or they stop having it the retirement benefits are just too good to walk away from. In the military we called these people "ROADs" - Retired On Active Duty. We need to find a way to remove the ROADs from the classroom that is fair to all teachers. Not a trivial issue. Education issues are complex and there are no simple answers. But fairness and opportunity for all should be what we strive for. State funding provides some of that fairness, like it or not.

Ben C

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

DonBee No doubt the teachers union protects those who are bad teachers and does not protect those who are good teachers. We just experienced this at Thurston School in Ann Arbor. The point is: do you want a brain surgeon with thirty years of experience working on you or a rookie fresh out of a residency? I chose the former. And I want the experienced teacher working with my daughter. I am all for getting rid of bad teachers - teachers who feel their tennis court times are more important than their students. Again, the public school system is deeply flawed and requires a major over haul. The first order of business is to get rid of tenure. The second order of business is to restructure "substitutes" with serious penalties for those who abuse the privilege. The third order of business is to empower teachers to be able to control their classrooms and not have to deal with classroom terrorists (out of control students that occupy the teachers time while the good kids sit idly by). And finally, not look to the state and federal government for funding with the mandates and strings attached to these funds, rather self fund the schools and live within its means. Your thoughts…..

Nora S.

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

Administration has asked for 1 full time teacher to be cut from each building. Ms. Greene needs to step up and take a pay cut.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

sh1 - After all it is only tax money, so no big deal right? There is more out there, right?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

The gravy train continues to roll on.............what happened to the $14 million projected not too long ago?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

Re "$700,000 was used for non-qualified dependent health care over the last couple of years," I believe when that statistic came out it was reported that there was no way to know if that money was being used inappropriately or not. It could also be due to children reaching the age that they are no longer covered by their parent's insurance or by families divorcing.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Let's see. They delayed through Feb, now through March, hoping to 'discuss' budget in April. They really want to wait until after the May Technology Bond Election because they don't want the community to see where they are spending and wasting our tax dollars; administration raises, communication increases, etc.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Isn't the proposed "balanced calendar" at Scarlett/ Mitchell also supposed to be on the agenda for one of those April meetings? Hmmm, that should be interesting - there's a huge budget shortfall, but we'd like to spend extra money on a program many parents strongly oppose.....

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

Hi Beth, yes, the balanced calendar report also was scheduled for April 18. That's the latest I've been told. I will let readers know if I hear anything differently.