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Posted on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 10:30 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools budget cuts: Public to get first look at administrative plan

By Danielle Arndt


The Ann Arbor school board will hear recommendations on the expenditures side of the 2013-14 fiscal year budget Wednesday night.

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

Wednesday night marks the dawn of difficult decision-making for the Ann Arbor Board of Education.

The district's administration will present its recommended expenditure budget for the 2013-14 academic year at a regular meeting that begins at 7 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library. It's a budget that will include painful cuts to some district programs.

The Ann Arbor school board started its budget process a little earlier than usual this year by requesting an initial list of possible budget cuts from central administrators in December.

Wednesday, the public will learn what items from that list remain on the chopping block.

Among the possibilities presented in December were reducing funding for high school theater, music and athletics; moving the Roberto Clemente alternative program to a wing of Pioneer High School and closing the existing Clemente building; reducing the number of teachers and counselors; moving Skyline High School from a trimester schedule to a semester schedule; and cuts to transportation.

But, the potential savings from cutting these items was figured when the district was projecting a much bigger hole to fill than it has now.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools went from facing a budget shortfall of more than $17 million, to now needing to cut $8.67 million to balance its budget for the 2013-14 academic year. The change was attributed to $3.4 million in concessions that the Ann Arbor teachers union agreed to, some additional revenue the district was able to bring in and additional special education reimbursement money from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which was driven by the county spending less on special education services last year than projected.

The new projection of an $8.67 million deficit will be reflected in the proposed reductions, said AAPS Communications Director Liz Margolis. She said the superintendent's cabinet will present the board with a number of different budget scenarios for consideration, so that trustees have options if they don't agree with the expenditure budget as recommended by the administration as a whole.

To prepare for Wednesday's budget meeting, Margolis said members of central administration have been going through the district's expenditures line by line and meeting with various groups of staff within the schools to brainstorm ways to save.

"Everything we're bringing to the table is bad. We don't want to be bringing any of this forward. The focus has been not to impact the classroom," Margolis said, adding there likely will not be many changes from the items on the list in December, but that the amounts being proposed for the cuts may have changed.

"It will be up to the board to decide what is the best of the worst," she said. "People hear these (recommendations from administration) and think it's a done deal. But no one knows how it will end up. The board could reject some or all of our proposals."

Superintendent Patricia Green said previously that across-the-board salary cuts would be needed to balance the budget. She has said contract negotiations are taking place. Details about these negotiations or what central administrators and the Ann Arbor principals union might give up are not known.

The board has conducted four community dialogues on the budget this year to gather suggestions from members of the public. Board President Deb Mexicotte said she and Treasurer Glenn Nelson were compiling the suggestions and have typed them up to give to administration.

School board Vice President Christine Stead said she has a few additional things she would like to ask the administration about and some thoughts for the board to weigh. She said she looks forward to having her questions on the possible impact of some of the cuts answered.

"I expect to see a description and a dollar amount much like we've seen in the past… but more about how this number came to us (as a recommendation)," Stead said. "The impacts to the services we offer I hope will be explained where it's not been clear."

She also said she is hoping for more detail on who was involved in coming up with the budget proposals and how the cuts might be executed if approved by the board at the end of May.

"We're assuming that buildings and teachers across our organization and principals across our organization had a role and … my thought is they better have offered up ideas about some of what is brought forward," Stead said. "I'll be looking to see our collective best thinking of what's doable and what's best for kids."

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


Letitia K

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

If the BOE refuses to listen then they need to go! Rally the troops now, circle the wagons, there will be/is a concerted grass roots effort to vote them out of office!


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

I wish I could look forward to a budget proposal that would change the way AAPS handled all extra-curricular and after school activities to being self-funded, with the school district funding access to facilities, background checks for all the (volunteer!) adult supervisors/coaches/mentors, and using the time and money now devoted to varsity athletics and school-wide arts performances to making sure every AAPS student at all levels has an opportunity to get some exercise in every school day. Art, music, gymn, and theater classes during the school day should continue to be free and should be more generously funded, but concerts, competetions, and play production would have to become self-supporting. Many school districts make a model of this sort work, and I believe the overall community would happily support the extracurricular activities their family most enjoys. Instead, I expect to see teachers scrambling even harder after "points" money from the extracurricular programs to make up for the 3% pay cut, and AAPS continuing to pay coaches $3-10k / sport /season, with several sports having multiple paid coaches, depending on the level at which a sport is funded. And the administration will be right there with them. Too bad.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

AMOC: you make some excellent points and I agree that "the overall community would happily support the extracurricular activities their family most enjoys." But what districts do you know of that make this model work? My concern is that if AAPS is the first in the area to move in this direction, families will flee to neighboring districts...Saline, Chelsea, Dexter. I relocated to AA from out-of -state, a few years ago and now I'm wondering if my kids would have been better off if we had bought a home in Saline.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

LOL - Not a single budget forum idea made this list. Maybe because it pre-dates the budget forums? None of the special education changes made this list, but they are underway, major changes for many students. 1 of the 40 or so suggestions I have made in the last 3 years made the list, Principal sharing. By the way that is the only significant administrative cut in the budget - 10 million from classrooms in cuts on this list. WOW! just WOW! I guess the BOE is going to buy into the administration program hook, line and sinker! Administration 1, Students 0 But we have come to expect this from AAPS, haven't we. No administrator was harmed in the creation of this budget. (The principal sharing will not survive tonight's meeting, it will be off the table, as will administration pay reductions).

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:17 a.m.

@DonBee: Could you please email me your entire list of 40 excellent suggestions that you have made over the past 3 years? I'll then work to publicize them, giving you (anonymous) full credit for authorship. I promise I will never reveal your secret identity (Community Bank Presidents are required to keep lots of secrets, in that regard we are kind of like priests, it's part of the job description, as in "the best banker is the one who goes to the grave with the most secrets".). My email is Thanks! If you are open to doing that, I'll also buy you breakfast at Zola's, if you'd like to discuss them in more detail in person. Alternatively, please post them all again here and I'll capture them from the multiple posts. Either way I think it would be a real community service.

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

then, not they, sorry!

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

With the way we are being treated by our building administrator, we would gladly share, they we would only have to put up with it half the time!


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

Mr Steak - You are welcome. Several of those schools could be turned around in a year or two with some careful staffing changes, in a couple of cases changing 1 or 2 people in the building would result in dramatic increases in enrollment. The people in those school areas know who are the problem staff members and have spoken to the administration and BOE with no success. If you want to see schools of choice work, rather than closing these buildings, fix the staff problems. But that would mean dealing with the unions, so I guess you are right, closing these buildings may be the only long-term choice.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

DonBee - thank you for your reasonable and insightful suggestions for cost-cutting at AAPS. I wish some of the community's budget forum suggestions had been considered by the BOE. I can't understand how the administration can support cutting (gutting?) programs while allowing some elementary and middle schools to remain open at very low capacity.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

So is the BOE taking only one day to "rethink" the RC move to Pioneer?

Letitia K

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

There were many great ideas shared at the budget forum I attended on Saturday; I'm sure the other forums also had great ideas. Is the BOE LISTENING? The Administrators need to take pay cuts. The teachers took 3% then everyone above them should certainly take 3% - then let's see how much needs to be cut after that.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

When Pat Green and the a very complicit school board gave two a.m. raises to the giant cabinet of helper-superintendents Green was building, the raises given were fourteen percent. A three percent cut at the top levels of administration will still be a net raise of over ten percent for the past couple of years.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

Teachers have already given 3% while administrators and central administration have apparently yet to respond. The public should demand that administrators and central administration take cuts - they need to step up to the plate as teachers have done. It's embarrassing to me that we're going into cuts proposal and discussion that will affect classrooms while admin. is holding back concessions (with hope for themselves).


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

The picture is interesting in that Patricia Green is looking away and covering her face. I wouldn't expect any one to look into the camera (especially after this BoE banner year), but her body language is purposeful and telling...


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

Is it possible that she is engaged in the discussion occurring to her left (as others also appear to be) rather than watching a photographer? Is it possible that people interpret what they see to confirm their biases?

Chester Drawers

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

Except that this is the same photo that has been running FOREVER, so who knows when it was taken?