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Posted on Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Deficit elimination: 97 layoffs, 3 school closings amid drastic cuts considered in Ypsilanti

By Danielle Arndt

Local control and employee paychecks could be at stake if the Ypsilanti Board of Education fails to approve a new deficit elimination plan (DEP) by May 8.

Ypsilanti Public Schools has until Tuesday to overhaul its DEP and submit it to the state, after botched figures and projections voided the plan the board passed in December.


Dedrick Martin

Ypsilanti was anticipated to have a combined two-year $6.38 million deficit at the end of 2011-12. However in March, school officials said Ypsilanti faced a deficit of about $9.4 million, including the district’s original $4.9 million from 2010-11.

Superintendent Dedrick Martin said the board was skeptical in December that the numbers presented in the district’s DEP could not be trusted.

The problems stemmed from figures provided by the former chief financial officer, David Houle. The board voted not to renew Houle’s contract in November.

“We had to recast the entire budget. … When we figured out it wasn’t a couple hundred thousand dollars (short), we self-reported the problem to the state,” Martin said, adding that Michigan officials were willing to work with the district to set the May 8 deadline for remediation.

However, district business manager Kelli Glenn said the state’s patience with YPS is wearing thin. She added school officials were told there could be no more delaying of the DEP as Ypsilanti has done in the past.

She said the consequences of not submitting a plan would be the state withholding Ypsilanti’s state aid, in which case the district could not issue payroll due to its lack of funds.

Additionally, Board President David Bates said, at a recent meeting with Martin, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan and other Michigan Department of Education staff, he was told Ypsilanti school board members could be charged with a misdemeanor for not passing the mandated DEP.

But after four hours spent discussing possibly cutting 97 employees, closing one to three buildings, reducing athletics and changing transportation routes, Ypsilanti trustees could not reach a consensus. The board set a second special meeting for 7:30 p.m. May 7.

The overhaul of the deficit elimination plan has a target reduction goal of $16.8 million, which would need to be accrued by the 2014-15 school year to bring Ypsilanti out of debt.

So no matter how the cuts and reductions vary from what ultimately is passed as part of the DEP, if the district decides to keep money in one line item, that dollar amount would need to be taken from someplace else, Martin said.

Included in the $16.8 million is about $900,000 — the amount Ypsilanti would have in its fund balance at the end of 2014-15, provided the district follows its deficit elimination plan.

Glenn said the $900,000 figure was selected because that is the approximate cost of one payroll. It provides a cushion for the district and is only about 2.37 percent of the district’s $38 million operating budget.

In the DEP proposed Wednesday, staff would take the brunt of the hit in 2012-13. A savings of $500,000 would be obtained by reducing custodial services. The district also hopes to negotiate concessions with unions to the tune of about $5.79 million.

Additionally, cutting 97 employees would result in a savings of $5.45 million. Of the total, 65 would be instructional staff: 11 elementary, middle and high school teachers; 51 para-professionals; and three Regional Career Technical Center staff.

The remaining 32 would be special education teachers.

Martin said although these specific staff reductions are spelled out in the deficit elimination plan, the board would be required to approve the cuts in a separate initiative, which has not been brought forward yet. Retirements and attrition could impact the final number of staff to be laid off.

Some payroll employees for athletics also could be on the chopping block for next year. These employees could include coaches, athletic directors or support staff, such as athletic trainers. The DEP estimates being able to reduce athletic costs by about $225,000.

Martin said some sports have multiple coaches and the district will need to consider whether the team could still function with one less coach. He said Ypsilanti is not considering pay-to-participate fees due to the number of student-athletes it has that qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

An estimated $400,000 savings for 2012-13 is busing route changes, which the staff is working out with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

Closing Estabrook Pool would save Ypsilanti about $100,000, including $61,000 from the salaries and benefits for full-time lifeguards.

While closing Estabrook Pool generated no discussion from the board, a proposal to close Adams Academy, Erickson Elementary and New Tech High School in 2013-14 and move their students into other buildings took up a majority of the discussion time Wednesday.

Martin said the district's square feet-to-student ratio is greater than most districts its size and with steadily declining enrollment, it is time to "right size" the district.

But Trustee Ellen Champagne said telling the public that YPS is closing more schools is the equivalent of guaranteeing a loss in students. The board decided on some other options to make up the $1.7 million in savings that closing the three buildings would bring. The board will vote on the updated deficit elimination plan Monday.

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


Dirk McSlash

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

If we don't retain local control, outsiders will be making decisions that will affect our kids' lives. They may even eliminate sports programs. My kids need the sports programs in order for their scholarships. Otherwise we won't be able to afford college. Say NO to outside control.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

So they keep transportation. Eliminate teachers and close Estabrooke Pool. I am not surprised by that pool closing. That thing had more problems and was down so many times there was no way to know if it was usable or not. Thank heavens they are seeing the lite. Ann Arbor went pay to play just after they privatized their transportation dept. No surprise there. As for the cuts? They need to start from the top down. Just like Ann Arbor needs to as well.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

An underlying and not mentioned concern for the Ypsi district must be how many additional students will bolt to surrounding districts through school of choice. And more will certainly leave because of the pending budget cuts. The foundation grant for the student goes to the other district....and Ypsi ends up losing again. If enough students leave, all of the budget projections they make to the State this time will not be worth the paper they're printed on. Seriously. This could be a death spiral.

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

"While closing Estabrook generated no discussion from the board, a proposal to close Adams Academy, Erickson Elementary and New Tech High School in 2013-14 and move their students into other buildings took up a majority of the discussion time Wednesday." which schools are left to be open? yhs, yms (formerly west middle), george(?)...? it's getting tough to even name what's left.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

Dading, Currently, Adams, Erickson, and Estabrook elementaries are open. Perry does the kindergarten thing. Ypsilanti Middle School, Ypsilanti High School and New Tech High at Ardis are also open. Forest Ave does the alternative ed program. Lucy, the "voters" have no choice except to support the schools. I support the schools twice a year when I pay my taxes. Do I like what the school district does with my taxes? No. Do I have confidence in the administration? No. Do I think the school district provides a good value to the community? No. Do I think the school district has enhanced the reputation of the community? No. Do I think the Board of Education has made good administrative and financial decisions? No. Do I like the high school being in the bottom 5% of all schools in the state? No. Do I like the $10 million debt? No. Do I think the environment in the schools is conducive to learning? No. Do I think the changes implemented so far have made a difference? No. Do I think the school system will improve without intensive, outside intervention? No. Plainly put, the school district is a liability to this community.

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7 p.m.

so what elementary schools ARE open?!? (would be left?)


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

George closed years ago. There are new closings every year. The district just decided to let go all of the librarians. Surprised that didn't make it to this article. The schools are being stripped down to nothing. And, from the list of comments here, I can see why. No support from the voters.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

YpsiLivin, yes it is the pool. Sorry for the confusion. Estabrook would not close, just the pool would under the plan that was discussed last night. Thank you for your question.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

Dading, I question whether the intent of the board is to close Estabrook, though the article makes it sound that way. The preceding paragraph talks about closing the POOL at Estabrook; I wonder if THAT is what didn't generate much discussion? (Danielle, can you throw us a bone, here?) Estabrook is one of the largest elementary buildings in the district. I think it has a capacity of about 550 students. Further, the building was designed to accommodate special needs students, so it doesn't seem reasonable that Estabrook would make a good closure target. I think Erickson is the other large-cap school. George was closed awhile ago. Currently, the Forest Ave. school (an alternative program) is operating at that site.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

David Houle should have never been hired. YpsiLivin is right that he had been at Willow Run before he came to Ypsi. By the time he left, they were already running a deficit and I believe (but this is based on memory, nothing else) that he had been let go from there prior to his hiring at Ypsi. I do know I thought this was a mistake at the time. Pointing fingers now, of course, will do no good, but it does call into question the judgment of those on the board who were there to vote for Houle at the time. Wouldn't it be nice if we could find someone to run for a board chair who had actual financial experience and could check the CFO's figures?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Help me here - what is he skeptical of? That the numbers can be trusted can can not be trusted? The way it reads "Superintendent Dedrick Martin said the board was skeptical in December that many of the numbers presented in the district's DEP could not be trusted." implies, to me anyway, that he is skeptical that the numbers are wrong... I think, and i could be wrong, he is skeptical the numbers can be trusted. Who is skeptical of numbers NOT being trusted - its a double negative implication, if such a thing exists.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

Dud d'Escargot, payroll employees for athletics, according to discussion at last night's meeting, could include coaches, athletic directors or support staff, such as athletic trainers. The story has been updated to clarify what was meant by "payroll employees for athletics." Thank you for your question!

Duc d'Escargot

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Yes, that phrase seems to be a double negative of sorts. By the way what is a "payroll employee for athletics?" Is that someone who processes the payroll for athletics, or someone in athletics who is on the payroll? I'm sorry but this article is something of a jumbled mess. Just voicing my plaintive wish that would someday have a measure of professional writing and editing.

Clare Kinberg

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Do I understand from this article that closing New Tech is really on the table? For next year?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Clare, ProudPublicSchoolTeacher is correct. The building would close and the program would be moved to another building. As to your question about the proposed timeframe, the building closures would be on the table for 2013-14 if another option for generating savings cannot be found. The story has been updated to clarify the year. Thank you for your question!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

No, the article only speaks about relocating the students. The program will not close.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

the cuts need to start at the top. what ever happened to the days when the principle did the work that we now have 4 other people doing?. Instead of getting rid of teachers.. get rid of the extras. The one thing that bothered me was the eliminating of so many special education teachers. How and where are these children going to go?. ! or 2 teachers can't possibly control a high number of those children. That's just a thought . All these schools so far in debt makes Willow Run look piddly , and people are so against them.. Interesting.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

I could not agree more. Very sad when the children loose out and the admin wins.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

Under-utilized buildings burn money, which Ypsi cannot afford. Consolidating students into fewer school buildings makes a lot of sense, glad to see this is on the table.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

Wasn't David Houle the financial officer they hired out of the Willow Run School District? Given Willow Run's financial condition when Houle left, how could the board have thought his performance in Ypsilanti would be any different?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

I hope you're not looking for logic here . . .

The Black Stallion3

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

It is very apparent that the current administration can not run the schools because they can not follow a budget. I believe it is time to turn these schools over to someone else, maybe a charter system that will work.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:33 a.m.

maybe we can get mitt to run them


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

um...once again, I ask, with all due respect to the exhaustive efforts of this school board, are we benefiting from local control? Is it better for this school board to dismantle what is left of these schools or is it better for some state appointed person to dismantle it? Either way, merger or not, both systems will be dismantled. Who does it doesn't seem to matter much.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

nope, its a dismantling and it will continue - parents are pulling their kids faster than this school board is willing to consolidate. This is not difficult math. Turning it over to the state and its resources its a better solution.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Local school control is definitely the better way to go here. Having local people run our local schools is crucial. The district is not being dismantled. It is going through necessary changes in order to balance the budget and live within its means. Even if it were being dismantled, "who does it" is infinitely important. Keep it local, just like the food on our dinner tables.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:34 a.m.

How can you not know what you owe? Makes Willow Run look good. It is not a merger it is a takeover . Many good class C schools. This merger will cause both to sink. Willow Run 1 million debt,Ypsi 9 million in debt. How can that be good for Willow Run?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

I think the same thing.