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Posted on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools: $2.5 million over budget and 29 employees over target

By Danielle Arndt


Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen presents a financial update to the Board of Education in this 2012 file photo. On Wednesday, Allen explained how the district became over-budget by $2.5 million for the 2012-13 academic year.

Danielle Arndt |

Ann Arbor Public Schools is employing 24 more teacher assistants and five more teachers than it budgeted for this year, according to a presentation Wednesday night.

As a result of district officials missing the mark on their staffing projections, combined with a change in Gov. Rick Snyder’s “best practice” funding, the Ann Arbor Public Schools is $2.5 million over its budget for the 2012-13 academic year.

Outgoing Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen and Director of Finance Nancy Hoover presented Wednesday the district’s second quarter financial report to Board of Education members, who were beyond concerned by the news.

Board Secretary Andy Thomas highlighted that the district projected an increase in student enrollment for the current school year, but ended up about breaking even.

“But then we somehow missed our budget in FTEs in the opposite direction … and we don’t learn about this until the end of February?” he said. “To me this is unacceptable. This is one of the reasons we’re in the financial pickle we’re in. We need to do a better job of managing our expenses and managing our FTEs, and matching the number of FTEs with the number of students we have.”

Vice President Christine Stead also expressed her disappointment, as well as her concern for the district’s fund balance, or primary savings account, which again will need to be dipped into to remedy the current-year budget situation.

“We’ve got to turn the ship around,” she said. “We can’t afford to have $2.5-million misses every quarter.”

When the board passed its nearly $188.5 million budget in June of 2012, trustees approved using $6.04 million from the district’s $18.73 million fund balance. Another $2.5 million dip would bring the savings account to approximately $10.19 million headed into the budget cycle for the 2013-14 academic year, for which school officials already will need to cut $17 million to $20 million to balance the budget.

The additional 24 teacher assistants and five teachers account for about $1.4 million of the district’s current-year budget shortfall. Allen said eight of the teacher assistants were for classroom “overages.”

In the current collective bargaining agreement AAPS has with the teachers union, there is a stipulation that if the target class size for a particular grade is exceeded, that classroom teacher is eligible for either a teacher assistant or extra pay.

By contract, teachers are entitled to one or the other if the district goes above the targets, Allen said. In the past, most teachers have opted for the payout. But this year, Allen said more teachers than expected requested a classroom assistant.

The remaining extra teachers and teacher assistants were necessary by law to accommodate the district’s special education programs, based on the number of special needs’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) the district has this year, Allen said.

Thomas was still puzzled. He said with enrollment for 2012 about equal to 2011, he couldn’t imagine that many more special education students, so the only major change the district could have experienced would have been a shifting of student populations from one school to another.

“If a class size at one school has gone up, it would seem a class size at another school has gone down. … It bothers me we would underestimate our staffing needs by that much,” he said, adding a couple extra teachers or assistants would be understandable, “but 20-some? I don’t get it.”

Allen explained an increase of two or three students in a grade at one school may be enough to push a classroom over its target, but it may not be enough to warrant eliminating a teacher at another school in the same grade.

In the district’s 2012-13 budget, school officials projected AAPS would receive $2.6 million from the state for meeting Snyder’s best practice criteria. However, the district now is expected to receive just $860,000.

Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson said he is less bothered by major changes to the projected revenue side of the budget than the expenditures side.

The district can’t control changes to state legislation, but expenditures — “that’s what we can control,” he said.

He added school officials missed their staffing projections last year as well, resulting in the budget being off about $3.5 million.

“Thinking about both last year and this year, what is the explanation for us going over what we budgeted?” Nelson asked.

Allen said in the past, district officials built in more cushions in terms of their projections. He said they’ve tightened up the budget so much to try to minimize the impact of yearly cuts that he believes there actually is less room in the budget now.

He also said the number of IEPs was higher than officials anticipated, so they will do a more detailed review of the number of special education students and historical trends for next year’s budget.

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



Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

And at the same time, the school board approved $858,056 for Skyline's football turf, according to the Ann Arbor Observer. I would think that a district facing hard financial decisions would consider throwing down some grass seed instead. "AAPS board has approved a contract to AstroTurf in the amount of $858,056 for a synthetic turf field at Skyline High School." - See more at:

Jay Thomas

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

Someone mentioned that eliminating balas would save 3 million. Start there.

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

What is all this crying and nonsense over budget cuts for the AAPS? The Ann Arbor School system is serving dramatically fewer students over the past few years than they have in the past. Their budgets and overall yearly spending should be going down to reflect these realities. We need to be honestly facing facts and talking about current realities when discussing school funding.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

Mr Kuhlman - Student numbers are running roughly flat over the last few years. With the exception of one school year the TOTAL revenue that AAPS has received has actually risen each year. The budget cutting is because the district's process assumed more growth in revenue than they are actually getting and several items built that assumption in.

Patricia Lesko

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 8:12 p.m.

A district with an annual $6-$8M dollar structural deficit goes over budget? And the BOE doesn't ask for the Sup.'s high paid head on a silver palaver? Really? The AAPS budget show is the same every year. Solicit public feedback without providing extensive financial data. Announce a staggering deficit (neglect to explain that a large portion of it is structural), withhold line-item/detailed budget information from staff and the public. Then pit schools against schools for FTEs and resources. The public, meanwhile, sits watching as principals tap dance for money, and cut each others' throats behind the scenes. The kids lose. The achievement gap grows. Money gets frittered away and the public gets whipped up into a ridiculous frenzy. Put the AAPS's checkbook, credit card statements and other financial data online already. In the meantime, @Linda Carter and the AAEA should hire a forensic accountant to comb through the District's books. @Steve Ranzini is right when he says there needs to be a thorough evaluation of District accounting practices and controls. Then, Patricia Green needs to tell the BOE when she knew her District was over-budget. The exact date. There's no good answer to that question, I know, but it might help the BOE members be less cavalier in their support of a highly-paid Sup. whose leadership is marginal and who PR skills are non-existent. The usual targets? Close Community (the third best HS in the STATE with respect to student achievement. There were 450 applicants for 122 spots this year. The AAPS isn't listening to its customers). Get rid of sports. Cut teacher pay. Jack up fees. The AAPS has the same disease City government has had. The inmates at Balas are running the asylum and this budget process is a shameful sham.

Basic Bob

Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

The administration _must_ actively encourage their financial staff to provide bogus information to the board of education and the public. As much as we don't know the true cost of athletics or busing, we also don't know the true building cost of Community H.S. Every one of those kids artificially selected for Community could be offered a spot at Skyline, that other school for the above average. And we would still have room in the buildings. We could close a whole building and lose all of its associated administration, maintenance and utilities, and put it up for sale. Sure, it would be great if all buildings could be as above average as CHS, but then they would have to convince the parents of most of the eighth-graders at Scarlett that they need to move out of the district, just as the counselors discourage most Scarlett students from putting their names into the CHS lottery. I would believe that we see the same pressure on the underclass at every other middle school, although their numbers are far fewer. What is the carrot for these kids? The athletic programs at Huron and Pioneer, their brothers and sisters, and all of their friends. We have most effectively segregated a public school in order to get that superior rating. Charter schools could only hope to be so lucky.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

Don't forget the last inevitable step: putting a new millage or existing millage increase on the ballot, and wringing their hands about how it must pass because it's "for the kids."


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 9:46 a.m.

This is not rocket science. A good leader would be able to digest the data, if presented and reach correct conclusions. This is something that is missing from the current supt., her peers (deputy supt's), Mr. Allen, as well as the current school board. None of them know what to ask for, nor what to review. Again - it is not rocket science!

Jack Panitch

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 3:59 a.m.

Every AAPS budget and K12 funding forum I can remember for the past three years has opened with a detailed discussion of the structural deficit, as it was arguably, until recently, the most destructive force public education faced in Michigan. Anyone who wants to learn more about it in advance of the next series of budget forums can go here: Moreover, anyone who cares about their kids' futures and wants to learn more about the current most destructive force public education faces in Michigan should attend the State Board of Education's outreach forum scheduled for March 11th at Pioneer High School's Little Theater. For additional details, see the AAPS web site's home page.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

Ms. Lesko - There are published audit reports, not as much detail as I would like, but for many people it is enough to get a real feel for where the money goes. There is a structural deficit and more importantly a budget process that assumes that the revenue will grow by a certain percentage every year. No one will close Community - and those who think the district should have not looked at costs by building (of course the last cost by building document published was more than 2 years ago now). Get rid of sports? After the fights and other issues, this year, maybe $3 million is too much of the general fund to lay out for sports. Maybe the district is better off with a smaller set of sports that are funded at the varsity level? Cut teacher pay - I would rather see a weeding out of the administration. They spent millions on a new accounting system a few years ago and on PowerSchool a year or so later, both should have improved reporting not only to the administration but to parents as well? What happened - start with a decision to now train the teachers in PowerSchool - only now is PowerSchool starting to see the use it was intended to have. Mr Allen promised a review of all the property that AAPS owns and rents out or is vacant, so far only one small piece of land has been sold. The Dixboro school continues to be rented a below market rates and still has maintenance done by AAPS for the renters, at AAPS cost. The AAEA has less of a right to go through the AAPS books than the board does, and the administration has been less than helpful to the BOE in a number of cases where they want money. Dr Green relied on Mr. Allen to provide financials, she now has an opportunity to change the dynamic in that part of the administration, this will probably be the most important decision she makes. The budget is complex with many stakeholders, take sometime and dig into the details.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

Aren't Teacher Assistants who are assigned to special needs students paid for with federal money?


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 3:29 a.m.

In a word, partly. The Feds distribute special education grant money to the states, Michigan distributes that special education money through the ISDs, and the districts get it to pay for expenses associated with special education. Typically this covers only some of the extra expense of special education, taken as a whole. AAPS (and all Washtenaw County districts) also get reimbursed for 70-80% of their special education costs from the county-wide millage that was renewed in 2011.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.



Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 7 p.m. What gives?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

AAPS needs to publicly publish a list of each school's enrollment, showing each grade level in each school, so that the high and low classroom enrollments can be clearly compared. Each grade level needs to also show how many teachers and how many aides are assigned to each grade level. This kind of report would make very clear the disparities among excellent schools' enrollments and staffing levels, and the underperforming schools' enrollments and staffing levels. How about it, AAPS, you have these numbers. Run a report and publish it on the front page of the website and here on aa dot com. The public needs to know what is going on with the enrollment situation in AAPS, and how the unaddressed disparities among schools' enrollments is affecting the budget, among other issues.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:06 a.m.

They will manipulate the data so it is confusing, just like they did the issue with building usage recently. And, in case you haven't heard, AAPS does not like to be FOIA'd and will delay as long as possible giving information. it seems the new administration leader doesn't like this process.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

I expect that AAPS will tell you to FOIA this information, based on past requests. Maybe the Board of Education would ask for this information?

Elijah Shalis

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

Engler's communist Prop A is to blame for this otherwise AAPS would be rolling in the money. I am glad most of my schooling was before then in AAPS.

Basic Bob

Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 1:23 a.m.

Just for that comment, I hope they take the hold harmless away.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

Not if the money came from there in the first place. Detroit pays very little of its education bills and is therefore heavily subsidized by taxpayers outside of Metro Detroit.

Elijah Shalis

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

redistributing the money from urban zones to rural ones is communist but hey conservative rural voters don't mind getting free money from the cities.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

24 more FTEs than they budgeted for..... $2.5 million over budget .... close enough for government work.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

There should be a clear process in place the defines exactly how many staff in each category are assigned to each building or program. If the building or program leader thinks he/she is short-staffed, there should be a person to go to in order to ask for more. What is the process in AA and WHO is responsible? This didn't just happen; either someone approved these additions or there is no accountability and HR should be reprimanded.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

As chief administrative officer, I'm curious what superintendent Green has to say about this shortfall? Why am I not surprised that Robert Allen is leaving AAPS soon?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

The reality is that AAPS is unwilling to admit there are major issues across the district with people swarming into the "good" schools and abandoning the "bad" schools. AAPS has a wide range of schools in the district, ranging from excellent to poor, reflecting the surrounding areas. Not all districts have this much variation. The result of this is that new families moving into AA flock into the attendance boundaries of the excellent elementary schools, raising the class sizes dramatically, and creating the need for more assistants and teachers in those schools, and this isn't known until school starts in Sept. How can they know the exact enrollment until school starts? Families that move to AA in the summer don't know where they are going to live until they find housing, and sometimes that doesn't happen until the last minute before school starts, or even after the start of school. The poor elementary schools are losing students because families are moving out of those attendance boundaries. However, teachers and aides in those schools are not being transferred out. They stay in the poorer schools with smaller class sizes while the good schools are overwhelmed with more and more students and new teachers and aides have to be hired. Additionally, in district students can transfer into elementary schools across the district, even before new enrollments from new families moving in is taken into account. Guess where the in district transfers occur? FROM bad schools TO good schools. No surprise. Class sizes are exploding in AAPS in the excellent schools and the district needs to acknowledge this issue.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1 a.m.

And, if parents do not find what they want in the AAPS, they remove their children from the public schools. Want to know what is keeping AAPS numbers fairly consistent? Students escaping from districts to our east...

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 12:58 a.m.

I can guarantee the public that the district does move teachers between schools when a population drops. My building had a teacher moved in on the Friday before school started, after she had already set up her classroom in her previous school, and this was based on numbers. My school has lost teachers like this over the years, and gained teachers like this, it happens fairly frequently. The district does not always offer in district transfers for families to move from the "bad" schools, to the better ones. If you look at the schools of choice options, many of the better schools aren't a choice. Each year the number of staff in a building may change, based on numbers. I know, I have experienced it as a teacher, and a parent. The number of teachers in a building is based upon the total number of students, and some grades might have higher numbers than others, this is where split grades come into play.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

There are rules in place to transfer teachers in lower attendance schools to schools needing additional teachers. Apparently they are not being followed.

Retiree Newcomer

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

Where are the quotes from Superintendent Green on this situation? Was she there? What did she say about the overrun?

Basic Bob

Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

No comment. In a few weeks, she will have Ms. Margolis issue a statement insinuating it was Mr. Allen's fault and of course it will never happen again now that we have Top People in charge.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

"In the district's 2012-13 budget, school officials projected AAPS would receive $2.6 million from the state for meeting Snyder's best practice criteria. However, the district now is expected to receive just $860,000." Danielle Arndt - can you find out why?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

YpsiLivin - Thank You! My concern is the length of time from the changes (August) to the report (February). Does anyone else have this concern? That Mr. Allen did not inform the board in any prior meeting?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

Thanks. I guess ultimately the point is that the budget was based on funding estimates, so it's easy to see why it's wrong, but the AAPS knew (or should have known) last August that their numbers were faulty. The discrepancy shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone, and they should have started looking for adjustment opportunities at that time. (But then again, that's what the rainy day fund is for.) I think they had to choose between honoring the terms of the teacher contract and following state law regarding budgets and expenditures, and they chose to accommodate the teachers. It doesn't seem like the AAPS School Board recognizes a clear decision path to follow when the terms of the teacher contract conflict with the requirements of state law.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:40 p.m.

Sorry about that inconvenience YpsiLivin, our future commenting updates will restore the ability to include active hyperlinks.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

@YpsiLivin: Thanks very much for this info. Please do try the free resource to work around the limitations at in giving links to sites with long urls. It works great!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

One last time, and then I give up... (long URL) MDE_Best_Practice_Guidance_2012-13_8_16_12 __395471_7.pdf Paste the whole thing together and you'll get the document.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

The .pdf link doesn't show up well on my screen. Here it is again. Hopefully it appears in its entirety. MDE_Best_Practice_Guidance_2012-13_8_16_12__395471_7.pdf


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

The "best-practices" money for 2012-13 amounted to $52 per-pupil, if 7 of 8 criteria were met. Ann Arbor has 16,696 students, per the district's financial aid report for February '13. I don't know that the actual amount received is calculated on straight multiplication, but 16,700 * $52 is about $868K. For Ann Arbor to have gotten $2.6M out of this money, the school district would either have had to have 50,000 students enroll in the Fall (tripling the size of the district), or the per pupil funding would have had to have been $156/student instead of $52 per student. The best practices guidance (using actual appropriations) was issued by the state on August 16, 2012. The actual appropriations were apparently less than those proposed in February 2012. I'm guessing here, but it seems like AAPD might have used Snyder's proposed numbers to make their budget, instead of the actual appropriations. Here are the guidelines issued in August 2012:

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Philly, there was a change in the legislation from when the district put together its budget last spring to when the state recently finalized and approved the funding allocation. The district bases its original budget on projections and estimations. They were given the indication last spring that the money the state allocated to districts per pupil for best practice incentives was going to be more. As I understand it, the money the state gives the local districts is based on a portion of the year-end State School Aid fund balance for 2011-12. So either there was less money left than was expected, or more districts in the state qualified for the best practice money by meeting the criteria than was expected. But I'll see if I can get further explanation/confirmation on this. Thanks for reading and for your question!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Out in the real world there are things called "budgets". They are prepared in advance of the time period they are designed to control. They are reviewed in detail on a monthly basis (minimally) and typically with any signifiicant purchase. There would be a comprehensive review and approvals required for any significant expense that was not budgeted. In summary a properly managed & audited enterprise would "never" encounter the situation of the AAPS. The school board and its top administrators are proven incompetent by their actions, non-actions and results. We need to leave the teaching to the teachers and the administration to people with real world business experience.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

"We need to leave the teaching to the teachers and the administration to people with real world business experience." Obama's real world fy 2012 DoD budget request $626 billion. Congress' real world fy 2012 DoD expenditures $925 billion (est by Maybe we could invite in some of those real world business lobbiests like Congress does?

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

This is an organization that needs to be far more transparent. They have a strategy of witholding all information, demanding FOIA requests that are often expensive. That foot dragging is just obfuscation. They act like a private organization that is not funded by taxpayers.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

Nick, I agree that it needs to be more transparent, but I seriously doubt that it ever will be. the hue and cry would be deafening!!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

"We've got to turn the ship around," she said. "We can't afford to have $2.5-million misses every quarter." Maybe that Carnival Cruise wasn't so bad.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

It's like the 'blind leading the blind'. Finding out at this late date that there are financial and manning issues is totally unacceptable. None of them (all of the deputy supt's & the main supt.) would be managers if they worked for me. But, the school board needs to be keeping a closer watch on this and asking for routine reports. If my memory serves me correct, surprises like this have happened before. So, it seems to be part of the school leadership culture to manage from the rear instead of managing & leading from the front.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2 p.m.

And for all the "run-it-like-a-business" the "private sector-knows-all" advocates After admitting to shareholders he made some "mistakes" "J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson seems unfazed that the department store chain's mounting losses ..." [Huffington Post] Any bets as to what will really happen to correct this lose in the private sector ? @ Brad - Friday will be day 2 following Johnson's statement. Let's see what will happen to him Friday.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

Well, if some people can have bad hair days. Then others can have bad blogging days (loss v lose).


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

I guess maybe someone forgot how to add, and now they want to get paid more. Maybe we need a math teacher for superintendent or another check the checker person.


Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.

Maybe the city needs to get involved in this violation, like the board wants to get involved in the city prosecutor's business!


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

walker101 - Most of the people on the board now, were on the board when the board passed a resolution that the administration had to post the "check register" monthly on the website and that they had to post other financial data in a timely fashion on the website for everyone to see. The administration complied for a few months and then stopped doing it. Since Dr. Green arrived it has never been done - technically the administration is in violation of a board directive and it seems like no one on the board cares.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

While another article today says that they don't plan to replace the outgoing Director of Finance - the district's top financial position. Probably because that have all that finance stuff so well under control. ???


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 3:19 a.m.

No Brad, they don't plan to replace him because Robert Allen did such a /fine/ job at tracking and managing district expenses that they can't AFFORD to replace him. Also, he and his direct staff are responsible for the majority of the foot-dragging on moving to a zero-based budget, as the Superintendent has requested.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

"In the current collective bargaining agreement AAPS has with the teachers union, there is a stipulation that if the target class size for a particular grade is exceeded, that classroom teacher is eligible for either a teacher assistant or extra pay." The union rules are one of the reasons we have big financial problems in many districts. Somewhere back in time we as a country decided to turn the operation of the schools over to the unions. Until schools are turned over to responsible taxpayers who will do what it takes to balance the budget and educate our children we will continue to read stories like this every year until the school system has to go into receivership


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

mgoscottie - You went to college in order to teach didn't you? I don't know what the right number is but I sat in classes with over 100 students and never spoke to the instructor. I'm not sure there is a magic number but what we are doing now isn't right. The current system is unsustainable including the compensation and benefit structure. I'm not saying you aren't worth it, I'm saying we can't afford it, plus protecting those who really should find another profession. Businesses and people all over America have had to deal with drastic cuts in wages and benefits but that hasn't quite settled in to our school systems...............


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 10:52 a.m.

How many kids are you ok with in a class then, I have 37 in a physics class without extra pay and I don't think it is right for those 37 .


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Only thing here that is absolutely certain is that there will be a request for an addition millage coming. Seems living within a budget is for people, not government programs.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

AAPS Spends 86-90% of all allocated funds on salaries, as per the AAPS 2012 budget. Of this amount, 75.77% went to teacher salaries. 6.65% went to central and building administrators.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

@Mike: Of the $174.2M expended on personnel: - $122M (61%) went to salaries; - $19.7M (9.84%) went to employee insurance benefits; - $30M (15%) went to FICA/Retirement/Unemployment benefits; Non-cash benefits are indeed a large (25%) portion of overall personnel expenditures.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

How much of that is legacy costs (i.e. retirement benefits)? Soon we will only have enough money to pay for retirement costs and not current teachers.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

They seem to be inept to a level that would get them fired in about two days in the private sector. "Refute" that.

Rob Pollard

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

I was just reading the NYT: one more example from the 'tough' private sector. To summarize: JC Penney's boss, hired a couple years ago from Apple, just announced losses of over $500 million for the quarter, which was ten times what analysts expected. TEN times. Sales at stores open for a year have dropped 30%. Has the CEO been canned? No. In fact he has already been paid over $50 million in compensation, with plenty more to come. He's been given more time to see if his strategy, with refinements, will work. Nice work, if you can get it.

Rob Pollard

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

Oh really - the private sector is that tough? How long did it take Rick Wagoner to get fired at GM? How about Stanley O'Neal at Merrill Lynch? Or Carly Fiorina at HP? Or Vikram Pandit at Citigroup? The list is long, but you get the idea. I do agree this AAPS board is inept (this story is but one example). But the fact is, there are plenty of managers/CEO who stink it up out in the private sector as well and still hold their jobs far longer than "two days" or even two years. Management ineptness, and their remarkable ability to hang on despite that ineptness, is not remotely unique to the public sector.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

Unfortunately this is not unusual for the public sectors, they're remedy in the past was just raise the mileage and well be fine, not to worry.

Top Cat

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

For starters, it appears that certain people need some remedial course on mathematics.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Many people blame Special Ed as the expense culprit. If Snyder can pay to ship kids out to the country in order to fix the education "gap" why can't he pay to ship Special Ed students out to one special school to correct the cost "gap". The core object of the Public Schools is to educated kids to be functional members in a society. While Special Ed kids are no different in that regard, and diversity adds value, they do require special budget accomodation which undermines the core Public School purpose for the remaining vast majority. The schools used to taxi some SE kids out to see movies, learn to "help" at local stores, get individual attention for their special issues. Perhaps consolidating into one school would clarify the cost society is willing to pay for Special Education..


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

I was a student with an IEP and now have 2 master's degrees. Many people have had IEP's and can be very successful. Here is a link to some successful people who would have qualified for an IEP.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 10:50 a.m.

I disagree, but I do feel like either we need to pay for special Ed or we need to release the financial burden, it is having a huge impact on finding for all kids without ieps


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

You have no idea what a special education student is. Some of these students will be very successful and run companies. They do not need a special school.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

I am really confused! Enrollment increased by 2 students this year, compared to last, (see ), and it cost $2.5 million over budget? Even if the final count of students was a little higher, I can't see where the extra $2.5 is needed. And no, we don't need to spend $100,000 on a study to determine that. Where is sound fiscal policy? They are simply spending too much!


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

amlive - They have been drastically cutting the BUDGET - but the actual spending has not decreased overall - in fact the revenue has INCREASED all but one year when you look at total revenue for the district. BUDGET does NOT equal SPENDING


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

I think you're a bit confused in thinking that they need 2.5mil more than last year. To the contrary, they have been been drastically cutting their spending for several years, but their budget has been shrinking even faster. They are spending less, not more, but but they need to figure out a way to spend even less than less to help corporations pocket more than more.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

You don't understand the teacher union rules. They are collecting a bounty every time the student count goes up in a classroom above a certain amount.....................

Martha Cojelona Gratis

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

Everytime I think Michigan (and their school systems) are improving, bombshells like this drops.. It's a sad time, truly.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

Too funny! "But then we somehow missed our budget in FTEs in the opposite direction … and we don't learn about this until the end of February?" he said. "To me this is unacceptable. This is one of the reasons we're in the financial pickle we're in. We need to do a better job of managing our expenses and managing our FTEs, and matching the number of FTEs with the number of students we have." In the PRIVATE sector, we use something called "Resource Management" which looks at ESTIMATES versus ACTUALS, since we have a budget to follow and if we somehow miss our mark, people are wallked out.......... BUT in the PUBLIC sector, there is NO budget, therefore spend, spend, spend,....and wait for OBAMA to save you!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

29 employees over target Need a suggestion?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

How many administrators will have their performance review dinged for this? Will there by any accountability?

Basic Bob

Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 1:09 a.m.

And glowing reviews for all! Negative comments like "should do more" just hurt morale.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

To answer your questions...........NO. It will be swept under the rug and never heard from again!:)


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

Public Sector: "We've got to turn the ship around," she said. "We can't afford to have $2.5-million misses every quarter." Private Sector: 'I need 29 names by next Friday, or yours is the first one on the list'


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

Either: 1. Don't pick that teacher 2. Suck it up I have no problem with either. That's life. I suspect this won't affect the ability of the precious little 5 year old's to get into Harvard. Got it?

kindred spirit

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 7:06 a.m.

"Okay, kindergarteners, we need to split up your class because we had to let your teacher that you've had since September go. Five go to Mrs. A, five go to Ms. B, and the others have to go to the other elementary schools. Got it?" That's only one reason why schools and businesses are not the same to run.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

I really hope someone can set an example and figure out how to know how many people are employed without hiring an outside consulting firm for hundreds of thousands of dollars. With this kind of oversight, I wonder what kind of margin of error we can expect in all the studies, analyses, etc. we're seeing regarding achievement gaps, operating expenses, etc.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

When you increase class sizes what did you think was going happen. Teachers have the option of a TA or a small increase in pay, and I think the teachers are doing the right thing by taking the TA. The other thing that plays into it is split/combination classes. Teachers often share students to help out the teacher responsible for the split from having to teach double everything (2 levels of math, science, social studies, etc..) which can count towards overage as well. When budgets are cut and increasing class size becomes the norm, so will this TA and overage pay out. Now, to not know this for 6 months in my mind is on purpose. It is meant to anger people short term as the budget cuts for next year start to get announced. I am guessing this will be the same push to say, teachers are to blame and need to sacrifice to help out. We shall see how this plays out. In my mind, this is terrible management by those down at Balas, it seems like they are untouchable recently as far as the BOE is concerned.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

1.4 million divided by 29 is over 48K. I'm assuming teachers make more than teaching assistants, but there are 5 of them to the 24 assistants. Just how much are these people making? I hope everyone remembers this story when they ask for a millage increase again. There seems to be very little accountability in the school system, and no real reason to make sure you do your job well. Is this budgeting thing completely outside the purview of our extremely highly-paid superintendent? It seems like knowing how many people are employed is a simple issue, and to have an normous error like this get by EVERYONE (I'm assuming number of employes is something that gets several people's eyes on it for various reasons in the course of running operations) is a very good indication that we've got a lot of bad people making a lot of undeserved money.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : noon

Let's see now- Five teachers (avec overhead) @ $100k each = $1/2 million. 24 (part-time?) teacher assistants @maybe $15/hr x 20 hr/wk x 30 wk/yr = $1/4 million. $750 thousand over budget. Hmmm. Okay Deb, let's double that, add another mil misc., and rthen ound it out to 2.5. YEP ! Just as we expected. Tell the news its those Baaaaad teachers to blame once again!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

Nor belittle the Federal/State axe-it-all as their intelligent approach to trim waste, fraud, and abuse. Direct answer is No. The headline implication was that this serious over budgeting is due to the hiring of too many greedy glut teachers. That well-known problem with all the Public School systems (also known as angry aarcasm directed at society's esteemed leadership).


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

I hope that's not meant to dilute the seriousness of money wasted and mismanaged.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Also important to note that assistants assigned to IEP students are funded mostly with federal, not local, money.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : noon

Oh my! Who is steering this ship? Who is responsible for insuring that all manage to given goals, objectives and budgets? Apparently, no one. Go figure!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

My guess, PhillyCheeseSteak is that the school board would not agree with you. By their actions, even they are not responsible. So sad!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

I believe that would be superintendent Patricia Green.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.

$10M plus in reserve -- when will it be used and what for? Seems to me it is a rainy day situation mostly because of the big bucks admins are receiving.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

Carole - The reserve fund is actually "used up" every summer to cover payroll before the taxes are collected and state funds made available. So while it is technically a reserve fund, if it did not exist, the district would have to borrow and pay interest on funds needed to cover summer payroll.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

It's pretty clear that AAPS cannot control spending, so even $10,000,000 may not be enough to cover the February surprises.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

The whole IEP process is broken. Students are "mainstreamed" in a regular class with an assistant that never should be. Many of these are just discipline issues that parents don't deal withbut the system has to by law. A full study of this would reveal things to the public that would amaze...


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:20 a.m.

And as to the idea that many problems recognized behavioral may be a result of insufficient discipline, I don't think you have any clue how much that makes my blood boil. Of all the stigmas that parents and kids with very real and recognized problems have to deal with from people ignorant on such issues, this is among the worst.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

A2comments, You unfortunately are missing several things. One is that school funding for general ed has been slashed over the last decade or more, to the point where schools no longer can even afford general counselors. There is no place for borderline learning disabilities or behavioral issues to go as needed anymore, unless they qualify for an IEP. This is the only way the schools can get any funding to allocate their hyper-stretched resources to help these kids. Then you also fail to notice that for every kid who has qualified for a teacher's aide or other special assistance, there are and handful of others who should be receiving aide but whose parents have not had the time/money/ability to advocate for them and get them proper access to these resources - trust me, getting an IEP written proper to ensure appropriate services can require hiring professionals to attend your meetings. There are plenty of kids who really need help but have never made it on to the system, and the only way they get any help at all in our skeleton budget schools is by unofficially piggybacking on resources brought for those fortunate enough to have strong advocates. If anything, I would say there are far more kids not officially qualified for assistance but should be, than there may be those who shouldn't be but are. And third - "My point is that the IEP process as it exists gathers in all the problems - learning, discipline, etc. It should only be true learning problems." - This has some big problems. As to gathering in all the problems, well if IEP's only addressed learning but not behavioral disabilities (as if you could actually draw a clear black and white distinction between the two), where would resources come from to help kids with behavioral problems but not what you would qualify as 'true learning problems' (reminds me of Akin's judgement on 'legitimate rape')? Answer is, no where. That's because the IEP IS where they get these resources allocated.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

Jon Saalberg: You misunderstood my point. The IEP process clearly includes students that do need assistance. Some of them need a lot of assistance. But it also includes pure discipline issues, i.e. a kid that refuses to do the work, refuses to do homework, and is just disruptive. They are put into a regular class and disrupt the learning - and get sent every day to the principals office. The parents take no responsibility, but the school has to add staff because the only way to deal with them is the IEP process. Chris: I wasn't saying that the IEP process ONLY includes discipline issues. However, I am saying that a discipline issue student that requires an aide because of an IEP disrupts learning for everyone and costs the district - and taxpayers - money because the parents won't take responsibility for the discipline problems. We as taxpayers shouldn't be paying for an aide to try and manage the student, they should be expelled if they truly refuse to want to learn and do not have legitimate learning problems. My point is that the IEP process as it exists gathers in all the problems - learning, discipline, etc. It should only be true learning problems.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

"just discipline issues" seriously downplays the impact an individual student can have on an entire classroom and the learning environment. A single "discipline issue" may force a teacher to spend an inordinate amount of time disciplining the student. Classroom teaching time may then be lost. A TA in some of these situations can be invaluable.

Jon Saalberg

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Yes, do provide proof of your claim - students are tested for the IEP process, so you imply that the system is "worked" someone, to provide false IEP confirmation for students. Surely, you can back up this claim of serious educational system misconduct.

Nick Danger

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

One of the most overlooked issues is the over identification of general ed students as special ed. Some parents push for special ed certification of their children in order to receive extended time on the ACT. Students are identified as handicapped with when all that is necessary is tolerance to those who are different.Minority and poor students are labeled as special ed at an alarming rate. Couple this with an an a growing special education administrative staff and the result will be a budget deficit. To resolve this simply take a more honest approach to special ed.certification by following the law and trim the administrative staff


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

Nick, I am a teacher and I have young minority students who need extra support that Special Ed. services could help with. Guess what, our support staff is refusing to test because they don't want to over test these kids. Obviously, if the parent request it, they have to. The point is, if kids need support, we need to get it for them. If our poor and minority population are struggling, shouldn't we try to help them regardless. This is just more proof that family support, or lack there of, is real and true. I have been teaching now for 12 years, the same was true when I started way back when.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

@Nick Danger -- The problem runs both ways in AAPS. Some students are overidentified but there are students in need of services who are not identified with the screening and assessment methods used. The extra time on the ACT is not decided by the schools but by the ACT organization or for the PSAT or SAT, the College Board. The history of school certification plays a role, but is not necessarily the deciding factor. I agree with you that the method for how students are certified or not certified needs to be looked at by outside experts, not just an internal review. To teachers or people on the inside of the classroom who have said teachers are more restricted in how they manage classroom issues: is there an advantage for the metrics that measure the achievement gap to be generous labelling minority and poor kids as special ed?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

The internal controls at AAPS are pretty awful if millions of dollars can be spent above the budgeted amount without it being discovered for six months or more. The internal audit system is clearly flawed too, in that there is no control or internal audit on critical processes in place to warn the board that the administration isn't following the rules established by the board.

Jack Panitch

Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 8:12 a.m.

@Mr. Lange Ranzini: Again, a less sensational but more accurate assertion is that the administration is, indeed, "following the rules established by the Board" by adhering to its legal and contractual obligations. If in the new school year there are 21 additional IEP's over the number known at the time the budget was set, the District can't turn the families away because the number wasn't budgeted. Thus, the "millions of dollars" ($1.4 million, actually, or a tad less than 1% of the total budget) was required to be spent. There are legitimate questions to ask as a result of this event, but you draw conclusions without asking those questions. Leadership probably bears the added responsibility to get this stuff right before drawing the tough conclusion. @Goober says it's all simple and clear. But it's just not. Again, I'm not saying that there aren't tough questions to ask, but you can't finesse the analysis by moving straight to the conclusions without first asking the questions.

Tom Todd

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

class-warfare man on the prowl


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

@Ranzini - thank you for your thorough explanation and educating readers on this. I wonder if there is a way to organize an online petition that would be considered valid that would ask voters to ask for an external audit to ensure the district is in legal compliance with Public Act 2 of 1968, the Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act, and all the points you mention in the above comments regarding budget controls and internal audits AND to complete this external audit with an open report to taxpayers BEFORE putting any further millage requests on the ballot in 2013 or beyond? The petition would need to be organized by community leaders or former board members (?Kathy Griswold, Eunice Royster) so that it would not be ignored or written off as a fringe group. @ Linda Carter -- If the union organize teachers by building so that their identities could be verified privately but indicate a block of signatures without fear of retribution -- which seems to be pretty well-established. With all the comments in prior stories about credit card use by administrators and cloudy accounting, I think an audit of all credit card statements from cards used by any and all school officials currently and ones that have been closed and rewards points for travel or anything else, should be included. Commenters have pointed to credit cards paid with tax dollars that do not clearly appear on district finance reports to citizens.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

@aaparent: In sum, an external audit is needed to determine what is going on. That audit can be done by accounting experts who are volunteers or trained accounting professionals. They would compare the board established rules and policies with what is actually happening and write a report with their findings. That "internal audit" process should be ongoing and cover over a yearly cycle all key areas which, if abused would cause major problems. Less important areas would be covered every other year to save money. That is what an internal audit system does and how one works.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

@aaparent: What excellent questions! That someone can spend $2.5 million above the budget without the board knowing about it is a clear sign that there is not a good system of checks and balances and dual controls in place at AAPS. No one person should be able to have the authority to write sign or cash checks that aren't authorized. First you must start with a policy that defines what authority each manager has to expend money. You need a treasurer or comptroller who will follow the rules and an internal audit process that double checks that this person will follow the established rules and not bend or break the rules if a buddy or their boss asks them to do something contrary to the rules. They need to know that they will be fired if they don't follow the rules and that they *will* be caught by the internal auditor if they bend or break the rules. Without strong internal audit, the board is in the position of *hoping* everything is okay and not ensuring it will *be* okay. People will bend or break the rules if they can do it and there are no consequences. This is a pattern at AAPS. I've been pointing out instances for more than a year now where there is clear evidence that the rules established by the board of AAPS aren't being followed and this means that there is an ineffective means of dual controls, internal audit and policies are being ignored because of that. This evidence includes: Hiring people not budgeted or authorized (this is the second instance). Giving raises to people not budgeted or authorized. Ignoring board established rules such as bus stop distances. Teachers who have written (anonymously) that the "corporate culture" of AAPS is that board established rules can be ignored with no consequences. In a private company it would be a serious matter, but we are talking here about the public's money and the lives of children, who if not properly educated will be condemned to a life of poverty!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

@ Ranzini - What would happen in the business world if the board meeting last night was the quarterly report at your bank? What would the next steps be in your experience? I think that the board will target the union and teachers now instead of circling back on why administratively this district is not well managed from the top down. If, as you say, if the internal audit system is flawed, do you suggest an external audit? How do you link this news of budget monitoring, the superintendent's strategic plan for zero budgeting and comments on leadership you made in the story two days ago? What about having the teachers in the district who teach finance, econ, money management, etc at the high school level get students involved in looking at these budget practices? Or an audit by U-M + EMU Business students? I am curious to see all the school-approved credit card statements from administrators at different levels that have been mentioned by commenters. Who tracks those statements and any rewards points the district credit cards get back? Is there a way to confirm that all travel home as part of vacation and/or personal days by the superintendent is paid for by personal funds vs. counted partially or fully as business expense if she works through the weekend at home?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

That extra pay thing has been around for years. Willow Run does do this and I do know of a few teachers who take the pay rather then be saddled with a helper. Most times teachers do prefer to do it on their own rather then teach someone new the ways the of the classroom.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

That is how it was told to me by a WR elementary teacher. Saddled. Now with all the budget cuts out of Washington? There won't be much to spend after March 1.

Joe Kidd

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

"Saddled with a helper?"

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

Wow! Off by 29 FTEs? It is not just poor management, but actually illegal in Michigan: Various provisions of Public Act 2 of 1968, the Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act, govern the budget adoption and implementation process for units of local government in Michigan. Section 17 requires, among other things, that if during a fiscal year, it appears to the chief administrative officer or to the legislative body that actual and probable revenues are less than estimated revenues, the chief administrative officer or fiscal officer must present to the legislative body recommendations which, if adopted, would prevent expenditures from exceeding available revenues for that current fiscal year. Finally, Section 18 requires, among other things that, "[e]xcept as otherwise provided in section 19, an administrative officer of the local unit shall not incur expenditures against an appropriation account in excess of the amount appropriated by the legislative body. The chief administrative officer, an administrative officer, or an employee of the local unit shall not apply or divert money of the local unit for purposes inconsistent with those specified in the appropria- tions of the legislative body." Emphasis supplied. The sum of the foregoing statutory provisions is not an aspirational goal, but a legal requirement that officials in units of local government annually adopt a balanced budget, monitor throughout the course of the fiscal year the revenues and expenditures contained in that adopted budget, and adjust the budget to the extent necessary to maintain it in balance.

Jack Panitch

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:38 a.m.

@Snapshot: Late arrival, huh? I have never heard the phrase protecting "no loads" before, so I had to do a little research. The definition appears in the on-line aviator's slang dictionary: No-Load An underachiever. Named after the process of warming up the catapults before a launch. "Stand clear of Cat 1 while firing no-loads. I'm an aviator, but not a naval aviator. I don't argue with naval aviators: there's no margin for error. It's nice to hear from you, though.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 12:20 a.m.

Jack, stop it. You're protecting no loads with meaningless jargon. They dind't do their job because they don't have to do their job if they don't feel like it. Nothing happens if they don't do their job. That's why this happened. No other reason.

Jack Panitch

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

DonBee: Don't get me wrong. You more than held up your part of the bargain.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

Jack - Sorry I did not give you everything you wanted. I still think that if you are cutting payroll checks for 7 months, you know who is on staff and what part of the organization they are part of. Mr. Allen has been in front of the board almost weekly for that time, the fact that more than 1/2 the school year passed without saying something is just flat wrong in my opinion. Whoever is responsible for HR and the budget should have flagged this to Mr. Allen and Dr. Green in late September - not February.

Jack Panitch

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

@Joe Kidd: If that's what "sticks in (your) craw," this may be a valuable lesson on K12 funding, where Districts have to have a budget in place by June 30th so that the governor and legislature can change the law after June 30th and entirely upset the forecast. Consistent with Ms. Arndt's explanation in the commentary below, that's what appears to have happened with the "best practices" revenue. You can bet that we aren't the only District whose budget is negatively affected by this change. Any real concern appears to be on the expenditure side here. The additional expenses involved appear to be legitimate and required, i.e., beyond question. Some people are concerned about who knew what and when or why nobody knew about it earlier or why nobody reviewed the financials and asked about it. The fact is I don't have a clue what happened and I shouldn't have speculated yesterday. I have this misty image that someone trying to juggle maybe 25 hand grenades simultaneously finally emphasized this information to someone else in various stages of defusing eight different bombs; and that, understandably, due to more pressing matters, the information wasn't passed forward until the second quarter financial review. In the meantime, the District and the Trustees still have reasonable time to make reasonable decisions about how they will handle this completely legitimate additional expense. I wonder if some of the reactions reported in the article aren't a function of the meeting running until 3:00 a.m. And while the lack of control over revenue and expenditures in the current cycle of destabilized funding for public education probably emphasizes the need for better monitoring, I don't think it's time for Captain Obvious, Don Quixote and the Red Queen to form an Avengers' squad. As always, a much more collaborative approach would work better.

Joe Kidd

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 2:46 a.m.

The word "illegal" is being grossly overused in this conversation with such emphasis that is sounds as though someone should go to jail. News Flash: This happens a lot all over the state, nation, globe. Detroit, Detroit Public Schools, Pontiac, etc all have liabilities that are unfunded due to the same sort of actions by elected bodies. Such it is a violation of the statute but unless it is a crime it should be considered a regulation that should be followed as strictly as possible. What sticks in my craw here is the old, "oops, we over projected_______________." Fill in the blank. When it pertains to expected revenue, you have to be extremely accurate and should estimate conservatively. I find it odd that with over sized classes one option is more pay for the teacher. That does not buy more time to spend with struggling students. There should be just one solution, the teaching assistant, another person during class time who can assist kids who are behind. Please, if you make cuts, start at the top, not the bottom.

Jack Panitch

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:26 a.m.

DonBee: You probably should also have pointed out below that despite Ms. Lesko's averment to the contrary, the District has taken pains to explain the structural deficit ad nauseum at every budget and school finance forum held over the past three years, and that solving it is something that has to happen at the state level. But you held up your part of the bargain. So, here's my take: the length of time in reporting to the Board bothers me, but it's predictable. The District is just getting organized to go through this year's round of budget discussions. Someone probably knew about the problem, but with all the difficult issues they have to deal with simultaneously, this is the first time anyone really focused on it. This is pure conjecture on my part, and I am open to other possibilities.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

@Jack Panitch: Are the 29 teachers and teachers assistants "at will" employees or subject to the union contract and therefore not able to be laid off until the end of the year? If the latter, hiring them violates the referenced law because "an administrative officer of the local unit shall not *incur expenditures* against an appropriation account *in excess of the amount appropriated* by the legislative body.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

DonBee: I'll make you a deal. You travel down the page and do a credible job of illuminating the inaccuracies in @Pat Lesko's post, and I will give you the opinion you are looking for.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

Illegal or not, is not my concern. What is my concern is AAPS has been paying these people for months (or at least I hope they have). They have a payroll system. How hard is it to run a report from the payroll system that gives counts of the number of people getting pay checks? Does it really take 7 months to get those counts? Really? Mr. Panitch - No they have not spent their whole budget allocation - so technically it is not illegal, but they have been on a path to over spend by 2.5 million for 7 months - I suppose you don't consider that a bit long to provide a heads up to management? No, I suppose you would be fine if they waited until last April, or maybe you will surprise me and indicate that the length of time in reporting bothers you too?

Jack Panitch

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

Uh, no, I'm not conflating anything. The type of expenditure is approved. The total amount is approved. The District has not yet spent all the money approved. So nothing illegal has occurred. You have to read the whole law. And then since you really seem to have some time on your hands, why don't you call the local prosecutor and get his or her take. And then, maybe, call the Department of Attorney General and get their take. Your admission must be too recent for the last reporting cycle of the Michigan Bar directory. Anyway, congratulations!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

@Jack Panitch: Spending money not authorized or hiring employees not authorized by the AAPS BoE is actually illegal per the language of the law. The key sentence in what was stated above is "Section 18 requires, among other things that, "[e]xcept as otherwise provided in section 19, an administrative officer of the local unit shall not incur expenditures against an appropriation account *in excess of the amount appropriated* by the legislative body. The chief administrative officer, an administrative officer, or an employee of the local unit shall not apply or divert money of the local unit for purposes inconsistent with those specified in the appropriations of the legislative body." To repeat, "in excess of the amount appropriated." You are conflating that problem with a second issue which is that It is necessary to formulate a plan to fix a budget deficit based on revenues not meeting the budget and then if no action is taken to close the deficit, then that would be illegal per this statute. On that issue there is a time interval allowed to take steps to fix the problem.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Mr. Lange Ranzini's premise is that the District has done something "illegal." [As in, "Wow! Off by 29 FTEs? It is not just poor management, but actually illegal in Michigan."] Magnitude and timing indicate otherwise. What has happened is that the District has done something many governmental units do in setting their budgets: underestimated its costs and overestimated its revenue. There is nothing inappropriate about the added expenditures: as the article tells us, they are required by law and by contract. The article doesn't really explain the revenue shortfall, but Ms. Arndt has provided a reasonable explanation in the commentary. Now, this is February, not June. With the information about the revenue shortfall and the added legitimate expenditures in hand, if the District doesn't do something now to stay within budget or the BOE doesn't approve the use of fund equity to meet the overage, then there could be more entanglement with MCL 141.437 et seq. But we aren't even close to that. A little common sense is called for here: if the law were otherwise, local government couldn't function. What Mr. Lange Ranzini probably should have said was that these occurrences could amount to something illegal if left unchecked for too long. But that isn't sensational. It is much more sensational to allege illegal activity here and now. Alonso Quijano would have some advice here, I think. If anyone wants to check the actual wording of the law, here's the cite:


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

Nice work! Perhaps you should run for the BoE. Obviously they could use your expertise in governance!:)


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:28 a.m.

"We need to do a better job of managing our expenses ..." What? From the same Board that snuck through hefty administration pay hikes in the wee hours of the morning? The same Board that hired the most expensive superintendent in Michigan? The Board is just as culpable for this financial mess as the administration.