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Posted on Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Ann Arbor schools budget discussions: More chances to participate planned

By Danielle Arndt

The Ann Arbor Public Schools has scheduled two community forums on the budget for May. Meanwhile, the last budget dialogue hosted by the Board of Education will take place Saturday.


Parents, teachers and school board members gather at Huron High School for a community forum on the 2010-11 Ann Arbor Public Schools budget in this file photo. Forums were announced this week for the 2013-14 budget.

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

The Ann Arbor school board took a new approach to hearing from the community this budget cycle with a series of four community dialogues.

The dialogues have been spread out across the district at multiple schools and at various times of the day. Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson said the events have been well attended, with between 60 and 120 people showing up to each one.

He said the trustees leading the dialogues give a 10- to 15-minute introduction on the district's budget situation and the initial potential cuts that have been costed out by school officials. Then the group as a whole spends time talking about what community members came desiring to talk about, Nelson said, adding the dialoguess have been quite successful and the board appreciates the input it has received on the budget.

Saturday's budget dialogue will take place from 9-11 a.m. at Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St. The trustees scheduled to lead the discussion are Nelson, Susan Baskett and Deb Mexicotte.

Central administration will present its proposed budget, complete with cuts, to the Board of Education at Wednesday's regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. According to the district's most recent revenue projections, AAPS officials will need to cut approximately $8.67 million from the district's operations in order to balance the budget for the 2013-14 academic year.

Initially, officials projected they would be working with a $17 million to $20 million hole plus a $2.5 million current-year deficit. However, Superintendent Patricia Green enacted a spending freeze for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year and decided not to fill the deputy superintendent of operations position after Robert Allen left. In addition, the teachers union agreed to about $3.4 million in pay cuts.

After the administration presents its proposed budget to the board Wednesday, it will offer two community forums on the budget:

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


Danielle Arndt

Sun, Apr 21, 2013 : 4:59 a.m.

I also attended the budget dialogue today. I thought the staff who came had some interesting ideas that I hadn't heard before. A story from the meeting will be running in the morning.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

Danielle - In answer to your question, I like this new format MUCH better than the old on in which AAPS teachers and administrators "facilitated" the discussion at each table and supposedly recorded the suggestions of all the participants. However, at this session there were more discussions of the superintendent issue, "why extracurriculars shouldn't be cut", pleas for smaller class sizes, and how important it is to raise more revenue than there were suggestions about cost savings. Possibly this was because a very large proportion of the attendees, almost half based on self-identification by the speakers, were AAPS staff members. Certainly teachers would know best what they need to make their classrooms run well, but I suspect that there's a certain amount of self interest at work here too.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 9:42 p.m.

Typo - This format is "better than the old ONE". Sorry.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

I went to this morning's meeting. Let me summarize: 1. Don't cut anything. Cuts are bad. 2. We can't do the job without more revenue. Expect a new millage on the November ballot. 3. All of our problems are caused by evil outsiders. Either the Governor or the Legislature, or both. 4. There is no waste in the system, so we can't cut ours way to success. 5. Teachers have already suffered enough. I think that about covers it.

Wake Up A2

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

Where are the cuts at balas? One or two low paid scape goats.... here is an easy formula: Max teacher salary 80k, principle 90k and Max balas 100k. That will save a million or two. No more teacher / district chairs.... there is another million. No kid is the worse for wear and life keeps going just several million cheaper. There are your balas cuts.

Wake Up A2

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

I was at Pioneer today with WESO with my other child. The lights at pioneer they are putting in are a different direction then on the ground floor. It looks tacky. Isn't there a person at Balas who is to oversee things like this? Wouldn't you think they would all be the same direction. Looks like someone is not doing their job .....again!


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

Does not surprise me.

Wake Up A2

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

That is why Glen was seen by staff at Pioneer. My daughter came home and said the teachers were talking about it.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Danielle, is it possible to find out if AAPS did in fact renew their contract with PEG/Glenn Singleton and if so, for how much? Patricia Green was quoted in a previous story that the firm wasn't using any "measurable components" to gauge the district"s progress----so now they are? This expense doesn't seem like it would fit with her "zero based budgeting" and accountability.

Danielle Arndt

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Also, just fyi, here's a link to the previous story that towncryer references:

Danielle Arndt

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

towncryer, I will look into it. If the use was as Chester Drawers says it was, it appears to be in line with what Pat Green told me the district's use would be in the future: "Moving forward, the district will contract with the Pacific Educational Group to provide 'Beyond Diversity' training only. Even then, the consulting firm will be called upon for this service to bring only 'limited' new employees entering the district 'up to speed,' Green said." But I will look into it. I believe the current contract has not run out yet, but that the idea was to let it run out and then to not renew it. However, I'll double check that too. Thanks for your question.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

Based on the most recent issue where staff like Mr. Allen did not seem to make others aware of financial and head count issues while they were happening, unless key staff changes are made or the BOE learns finances and budget control, I have no faith that any good suggestion will mean anything more than a 'hill of beans'. Go figure!


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

Goober - Robert Allen has left AAPS. His replacement was promoted from within, and is proceeding (finally!) to implement the line-item budget Dr. Green was so surprised to discover AAPS has never had. If that particular change is sustained even after Pat Green is gone, we should be seeing many fewer surprises of that sort, and a much clearer picture of how much is spent on what.

Wake Up A2

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

I believe the problem is this.....people give them ideas. Staff give them ideas. Then they do what they want anyways. Just two years ago, they let Glen S go as a paid consultant after much hoopla. They claim a 17-20 million dollar shortfall. Then they scare the union into a 3% pay decrease. Two weeks later guess who they bring back? Did they tell the Did they tell the Did they spend money on someone after the staff took concessions? YES. That is way people are tired.

Chester Drawers

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

Apparently an employee of Glenn Singleton's company, PEG, was at Pioneer a couple of weeks ago to give a seminar to all employees who had not yet been indoctrinated (er, 'trained).


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 1:20 a.m.

Are you saying they renewed Glenn Singleton's contract? Or a different Glen S? Is this information on AAPS website or in board minutes?

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

Curious to hear from readers who attended these budget dialogues... did you like the format? Find it beneficial? Feel heard and like your comments/thoughts were valued? I ask because the board is considering scheduling more community dialogues on the superintendent search. Dates for these have not been set yet.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

Danielle, I have attended one, and it does give many people time to speak about budget items they are passionate about, and would like to see protected. Some are minor issues that affect a small part of the school population, others are larger, and can end up touching many students throughout the district. Yes, contributors are listened to by the board members, although answers are not always offered. I am not sure there is total trust, as several people feel the board has made up their mind and will do what they want anyway. Board members do present themselves as more humane when out among their constituents than when at an actual BOE meeting, and that might make a difference in the public's perception of them.