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Posted on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools to approve budget on Wednesday - and cover $17M deficit

By Danielle Arndt

It's decision time for the Ann Arbor Board of Education.

After two months of intense discussion and debate about which items should remain on the chopping block, the school board is scheduled to make its final decision Wednesday on how to close a budget gap of more than $17 million.


Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education will approve its 2012-13 budget Wednesday night. The district is facing a $17 million-plus deficit for fall.

Melanie Maxwell I

The board is required to pass a balanced budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year by June 30 to comply with state law.

Ann Arbor Public Schools’ current-year operating budget is about $185.5 million.

Board members have targeted about $4.8 million in cuts at this point in the budget process.

Based on recent discussions, the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center is expected to see no changes for the 2012-13 school year. However, at the close of the May 23 board meeting, Trustee Glenn Nelson said he would be willing to reconsider cutting Roberto in order to reduce the amount the district would need to take from its fund equity, or main savings account, to close the budget gap. Right now that's expected to be $7.05 million of about $18 million in the fund.

District administrators originally proposed merging Roberto Clemente, an alternative high school, with another alternative school, Ann Arbor Technological High School, for a savings of $400,000, plus the cost of transportation, which was estimated at $108,000.

After protests from Roberto's staff and students, the district proposed operating the program separately from A2 Tech but under the same roof, for a savings of $200,000 plus transportation. The difference of $200,000 was the approximate cost of Roberto’s administrative staff and office personnel. But more recently, the board has been leaning toward leaving the program untouched.

Board members said they would like AAPS administrators to conduct a thorough review of the Roberto Clemente program and its student achievement data throughout the next six to eight months to make a recommendation for fall 2013.

But Vice President Christine Stead said her hope is the board will have more robust conversation Wednesday about Roberto and her sticking point, which is transportation. She said she would like board members to consider deeper cuts to transportation.

"I think it would actually give that committee we've talked about forming for transportation more of a foundation to work together on," she said.

Since the board last met, the state of Michigan passed its budget for fiscal year 2013, awarding $120 more per pupil to the state's lowest funded districts, which do not include Ann Arbor. Stead said her concern is there will be less funding available for Gov. Rick Snyder’s best practice incentives as a result. In February, Snyder promised a portion of $120 million to districts that could meet five of six "best-practice" criteria, such as offering schools of choice or online learning.

AAPS budgeted to receive $2.6 million in best-practice money as part of its revenue projections for 2012-13.


Ann Arbor school board Vice President Christine Stead

"I've been asking the administration to double check these numbers on the revenue projections side and to make sure what we are projecting is actually going to happen," Stead said Tuesday. "I am going to be giving (the numbers) one more look myself today and tomorrow."

She said she does not want to pass a budget and end up being surprised by any one aspect and having to use more from the district's equity. She also hopes the board will discuss the district's three-year projections more seriously, she said.

"I think a lot of people just think something at the state level will change and we won't be in this position (over in the next three years)," Stead said, adding she does not share that faith.

If the board approves using $7.05 million of its fund equity to balance the 2012-13 budget, AAPS would be left with approximately $11 million, which is close to the $9 million it needs to make payroll over the summer without borrowing from the state.

Eliminating Roberto Clemente’s separate summer school, cutting the district's $60,000 contribution to its summer music camp, changing lacrosse to a club sport, cutting counselors, eliminating mid-day shuttles and busing for the after-school program at the middle schools, and outsourcing noon-hour supervisors are among cuts the board is expected to vote on Wednesday as part of the budget package.

Several board members, but not Stead, are torn over the proposal to cut the 4 p.m. bus routes for the after-school program. Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen is expected to report on possible ways to keep funding this service at Wednesday’s board meeting. The methods likely would include some type of contribution from community organizations so that AAPS still would save the $84,284.

Wednesday’s meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on the Fourth Floor of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library.

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


Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

PittsfieldPerson....thank you for your cold, statistical analysis. this noon-hour supervisor will certainly derive comfort from this when she gets her wages slashed from $10.15/hr to $ have a nice day.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 2:28 a.m.

WAKE UP MICHIGAN VOTERS! Michigan legislators have not passed educational reforms. They have followed the extreme right Republican agenda to dismantle public unions. Public schools are being forced to cut out existing programs and are unable to implement new programs because their funds are being diulted to fund UNPROVEN FOR PROFIT Cyber Schools and Charter Schools that do not have to meet the same standards as public schools. Best practices for reforming education would be to partner with state and local governments and state businesses to provide services and programs to public schools. Gov. Snyder--I do not want my tax dollars to be used to fund for profit schools. Also, now that the Republican legislators have vented their rath against the MEA--when will real educational reform start? and will it include Educators on the committee? When politics dicates citizens rights--all citizens lose.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

aareader - Maybe you are right for Ann Arbor, but condeming the children in Detroit to the public schools there is just that, condeming them. No charter school can be "FOR PROFIT" the management company they hire can be - just like the administration of most public schools (AAPS for example) makes great money running the district. I don't see a huge difference, between a for profit management company and what the administration in Ann Arbor makes running the schools. As to your closing comment - with the situation in Detroit - you are right, we all lose with the public school system that exists there - 1 in 8 who start Kindergarden graduate and can read. The other 7 - well they don't.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

So are they hiring teachers or firing them ?


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 2:50 a.m.

Yeah, how do you know ? I know of several people that applied and none of them got interviews. You know why ? Because Ann Arbor teachers hire their friends and family. You can get a degree from any school you want and get whatever grades as long as you get a teaching cert. and have friends in the system you'll get a job. It's a shame because we (ann arbor city residents) pay top dollar for teachers, but we don't get the best.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10:20 a.m.

Have hired 15 already.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

Donbee: It is easy to pick on athletics but if you look at the overall budget, they are a small portion. Furthermore, at least some of us who coach feel like we are a big part in positively influencing our young men and women in citizenship, academics and athletics. I have been coaching high school basketball for 24 years and in 5 public school districts. By far (and not even close), Ann Arbor funds athletics the least of any district I have been a part of. We pay head coach salaries, referees and some limited transportation. That's it. We self-fund for our own basketballs, uniforms, warm-ups, practice jerseys, shoes, summer events, jump ropes, equipment, etc. In addition, the kids have a pay to play fee to the district and a sport specific player fee. There is nothing left to cut in athletics. And anyone who thinks it makes sense to defund sports completely has never played sports and does not understand the impact coaches and experiences can have on a young person's life.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

Bballcoachfballfan - Sorry, I played 3 sports in high school and 2 in college and played sports for a decade beyond college. When I look at how programs were run when I was in high school, and how AAPS runs them, all I can say is AAPS wants to be the UofM, not a typical high school program. Special fields for football, special weight rooms, special locker rooms, and other facilites that are beyond most districts. Coaching staff that rival the size of a division 3 college, not a typical high school. I am all for sports - though I am beginning to wonder about football and lacrosse given the head trama issues - but sports that are sports, not the machine like win at all cost programs that seem to dominate the AAPS program. How many home football games does an AAPS high school play? Why do they need a multi-million dollar locker room for those games? Most children can learn as much or more in Rec&Ed. The schools need to provide physical education for all students, every day of every school year, to build habits that result in good health. Sports in the AAPS school system right now seems to discourage many of the children they are told "you are not good enough to be on the team so - go away" - while the coaches concentrate on their select few. If we want a healthy community, this has to change. As to a small percentage - of a $225 million dollar budget in 2011-2012 - more than $15 million of it went to sports (construction and direct transfers that can be tracked in the audit) and additional unknown amount went to maintaining fields, running after school buses, keeping the heat and lights on, etc. Call it 20 million or about 10% of the total school budget, plus booster money and other outside funds. Best guess - total is over $40 million that the community is putting into AAPS sports - close to what EMU spends. Not a small percentage at all. No administrator was harmed in the creation of the 2012-2013 AAPS budget.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

From what I have read over the last year, seems Ann Arbor schools are still better funded than most. Personally I am just waiting for the next (yearly at least) request to voters for more funding over the current. Seems living within a budget is not something this district has ever been big on.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

I heard this the other day and am wondering the same thing. Where is this $9500 per child funding going? Who is getting the money? I wonder? Bailis?


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

According to AAPS filings with the state of Michigan Administration consumes 1 dollar out of 8 in the school budget (more than $25 million total - up from $21 million in 2004), this is one area that continues to grow, while other areas are cut. AAPS has one of the most generous contracts for administrators in the state. They also consume a significant portion of the administrative budget in consulting (including PEG). If you look at the lack of quality in many of the consulting deliverables, it is hard to see why they pay this money. Much of this work could be outsourced to volunteers who actually have better skills and knowledge than the people they are using. The athletic department gets a $3.2 million dollar transfer from the general fund, plus money from the sinking fund, bond funds, boosters, and other sources. AAPS will not release the total amount they spend on Varsity sports, David Jesse tried to get the numbers at one point and ran into a brick wall. Given that this last year $11 million of sinking and bond fund money was spent on NEW construction for sports, and all the maintenance money, including mowing, etc. I would suspect in 2011-2012 the total was over $20 million with ticket sales being less than $900,000 of that, in other words, AATA has a lower subsidy than sports do. Any changes to sports funding would run into a brick wall from the Athletic Directors, and the rest of their administrative peers. Consolidation of HR, Purchasing and other back office functions at the WISD level could provide a significant cost savings for all the districts in the county, but would cost one or more administrators in AAPS their job, so that is a NO GO. In short the teachers will again get the short stick, low paid hourly workers will get an even shorter stick and the administration will keep getting 2 AM raises and being able to hire friends into consulting positions. The budget could be balanced, if the board had the will, but they don't.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

The amount spent on administrators makes me furious


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Why not cut school Administrators, reduce the funding of AAPS pensions and benefits? After all, it's for the children!


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

Balis needs so many cuts on so many levels it is not funny. But do they do it? Nope. They also need to close Clemente not cut the choir and music budget. Why? Because closing Clemente and no bus runs means more money saved.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Cutting counselors and significantly increasing the students numbers of the current counselors, particularly at Pioneer where students don't have individual contact with adults in forum like they do at Skyline, will add to the stress of teachers, administrators and students there. High School counselors keep Pioneer from boiling over, but how can they continue to do so when their load is increased by 75 students?

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

Donna, they can't. but the board doesn't care. good luck. god help our children!


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

jmac: The 4 p.m. bus routes proposed for cutting are for after-school programs at the middle schools.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

Which means no more after school sports or anything because the children will have no way of getting home. So they lock the doors at 3:30.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

It's not clear what the '4pm bus routes for the after-school program' refers to. Is this a district-wide program or specific to Clemente? The Board already eliminated the 7th hr busses at the High Schools (which meant that many students who would have taken a 7th hour class or stayed during 7th hour for a club activity, sports, or Orchestra had to forgo that opportunity because of lack of transportation home afterwards) so there are no 'after school' busses available there anyway. Can clarify?


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Maybe by June 30th?


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

They could do what they did the AAPS bus drivers. Find out they don't have a job by reading it in the paper?

Dr. I. Emsayin

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

I understand that counselor cuts at the high school will mean new counselors again for many of Ann Arbor's high school students. If we don't know what it is like to have the same counselor year to year, we don't even know what services we are missing. Its my feeling that the BOE doesn't know what counselors actually do anyway and concerns have been ignored with a form letter from the secretary.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

BOE is so out of touch it is not funny. They go on vacation and come back in September and expect everything to be hunky dory. Not.

Basic Bob

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

If the board doesn't know what they do, how should we? I know one at Huron that needs to be replaced or retrained, and of course we were stuck with her for four years.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 10:34 a.m.

It is a rainy day, so now is the time to dig into the rainy day fund unfortunately. Re: out sourcing noon hour employees, will not work and will only put dollars into the pockets of the "out source company.' These employees would do an excellent job are on the lowest end of the pay scale and are expected to do an extra ordinary job with supervising a large number of children keeping them safe and secure in addition to seeing that they have adequate time to eat. Very much opposed to out sourcing.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 12:47 a.m.

Noon hour employees typically do not work enough hours to ever receive retirement benefits from the State of Michigan. It only makes sense to "outsource" these positions and end the required contribution to the State pension plan (MPSERS). Existing AAPS employees will probably be hired by the outsourcing company.

Madeleine Borthwick

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

Carole- thank you for speaking out on behalf of us noon-hour supervisors. This job is not as easy as it appears to be. We work outdoors in all kinds of weather, have to grow "eyes in the back of our heads", and do our best to keep these precious(no, I'm NOT being sarcastic)children safe and perhaps teach a few life lessons in the process. asking us to take a cut in pay is digging into a pocket that doesn't have a lot of money as it is, many of us regard it as nothing less than a slap in the face, being told in effect that what we do is unimportant. It's reassuring to know that someone appreciates what we do, because the higher-ups cetainly don't. Thank you again!


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

Happened to the food service workers. Look at the quality of food and the quality of the workers Might want to see who really smiles when they come to the job next time.