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Posted on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 5:52 a.m.

Saline School Board approves 'structurally deficient' $51.5 million operating budget for 2011-2012

By Lisa Allmendinger

The Saline School Board approved the district’s $51.5 million 2011-2012 operating budget Tuesday night by a 5-1 vote, which included the reduction of 18 teachers and also cut administrative and support staff.

Calling the budget “structurally deficient,” Superintendent of Schools Scot Graden said it was “the most difficult budget year in the last three years.”

He said this budget was “the end of the road” and that the district cannot continue along the same path, which included the use of about $1.3 million from the school district’s fund balance to close the deficit.

“Right now, we are still operating on a structural deficit, which is not sustainable,” said Tom Wall, assistant superintendent of administration, who was attending his last board meeting with the district. He's leaving the district and his position is not being filled.

The district’s fund balance was reduced from about $3.13 million to about $1.87 million, or 3.64 percent of the operating budget. The district has a policy that states it shall maintain at least a 5 percent fund balance, and if it drops below that amount, the district has a year to replenish the fund.

The drop in the fund balance concerned Trustee Lisa Slawson, who voted against the final budget because of it.

“This has been the hardest budget since I started on the board in 2004,” she said. “We are taking the fund balance below 5 percent, spending $1.3 million and we will have to replenish it with $2.3 million to reach 5 percent.”

“This is the end of the road, as Mr. Graden said, there will have to be painful concessions and layoffs,” in the future, she said.

Wall said on the expense side, about $28.5 million is for staff, or 56 percent of the total, about $16 million pays for benefits or 31 percent and $6.9 million is earmarked for “other” for thing such things as supplies and capital improvements.

For the 2010-11 year, staff costs were about $29.3 million or 57 percent of the general fund expenses, benefits were about $14.7 million or 29 percent and “other” accounted for about $7.2 million or 14 percent.

The final budget includes about $1.5 million in union concessions and cuts of about $1.5 million that include the reduction of 18 teachers, two administrators, and a security guard, as well as using about $1.3 million from the fund balance.

Not much changed from the preliminary budget that was introduced to the board earlier this month. However, instead of two teachers, four are being held “in reserve” should enrollment increase. The district is expecting a reduction of about 25 students in the fall. This year, it has about 5,360 students.

In total, the board voted on about $805,000 in staff adjustments.

The proposed budget also includes expenses that include a 24.24 percent increase in retirement benefits and a 10.1 percent increase in health care the Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA) as well as a reduction of 8.95 percent for Blue Cross/Blue Shield totaling about $995,000 for benefits. The board voted 5-1 to approve the budget with Board Member Todd Carter absent.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Saline stories, visit our Saline page.


Fat Bill

Thu, Jun 30, 2011 : 2:03 a.m.

I pity the folks who need to sell their house. One of the big draws to the area were the excellent schools. We are now on the path through average, on the way to mediocre. It's not that Saline voters can't afford to pay slightly more for schools, it's that we all have to pay to the state so that we can be equally mediocre by way of per-pupil compensation. Having grown up in tax revolt country (the west coast) I can tell you that the real victims here are the kids. The rich kids can go to private school, the middle class and working class kids will be crammed into classrooms like cattle at a stockyard. The public school education is a 13-year process. There will be kids from some families who will not have the opportunities that their older siblings had; sorry junior, no advanced-placement for you. Music? Oh yeah, we used to have that...


Thu, Jun 30, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

Once again Trustee Slawson's "NO" vote should have come years ago. After voting "Yes" on every contract during her tenure, she knew this day was coming. As she likes to point out "as the senior member" of the board this falls on her shoulders as well as her liberal colleagues supported by the SEA. What did the board offer the SEA that was so repugnant that would have resulted in no lay-offs and a better balanced budget ? Let's make it simple - no step raises and reasonable priced health care (not MEA/SEA supported MESSA insurance) would have done the trick. SEA leadership knows this, I wonder if the membership does. If so, they are just as complacent in this atrocity as the board and SEA leadership.

Billy Buchanan

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

The "Saline School Board" are nothing but a bunch of waco's who know how to exploit the system and are par none at double-speak. Capital improvemnts is a misonmer for waste.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

This must be a typo: "The proposed budget also includes expenses that include a 24.24 percent increase in retirement benefits and a 10.1 percent increase in health care..." How can the board approve this with a straight face? These cost increases are simply not acceptable! Also, the district would be far better off if they had laid off 18 administrators and two teachers. The former cost more and do nothing to educate our children.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

The cost increases in retirement, at least, come from the state level. There is nothing that can be done at the district level to keep them low.

Greg Gunner

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

Once again teachers get blamed for the lack of action by politicians to adequately address school funding. Using Republican logic, teachers get paid too much, so we will pay them all less and continue all of our education programs by political mandate. The reality is that less money means fewer programs, fewer teachers, etc. Applying this logic to gasoline prices, I only want to pay $1.50 per gallon, so let's mandate price cuts in the petroleum industry. I want cheaper auto, health, and life insurance. Let's mandate $100/year auto insurance premiums, etc. We should be able to do this across the board. Mandate large pay-cuts for CEO's, business owners, over-paid executives. However, I suppose it's only public employees that have to deal with the plantation mentality exhibited by Slick Rick and his Republican cohorts. I expect the next thing to go will be the minimum wage. Afterall, why pay workers anything. Save it all for Slcik Rick and his wealthy cronies.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 3:04 a.m.

I agree with the plantation mentality, only it is government workers who run the farm. Taking leisurely summers off, sitting on the veranda drinking fancy beverages, vacationing in Europe, while people who create real wealth through their hard work are forced to pay extra for your privilege. Maybe Snyder has a few rich friends, but he is not intentionally wrecking the state for future generations like the public unions. I wonder why people left in droves while Granholm was in office? Can you say "no jobs"?


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

What is wrong with these people? Not each and everyone shows up to vote on the budget??? You were elected to be there. I can't believe how little is left in their fund reserve. They should all hope and pray that there are no emergencies. They also should be mindful that a world class school district like this can't live paycheck to paycheck. Hard decisions indeed are coming, which means the SEA is probably working overtime to put other likeminded folk on the board.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

That is a bad budget - near sighted - with no concern for tax payers - no adjustment for the economic situation - no concern for future budgets and certainly no concern for the kids. The two sides seem to desire a fiscal emergency forcing emergency actions.

DB Holden

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

The Saline School Board maxed out the credit card and raided the piggy bank in approving the 2012 budget. Some salient facts: 1. The District will get MORE money from Lansing next year by $400,000 compared to 2011. 2. Spending increases by $200,000 year over year. 3. The Fund Reserve will fall below the 5% and that gap is required to be replenished within two years. This creates a potential multi million dollar liability in future years. The Board has robbed Peter to pay Paul further hamstringing the future of Saline Schools. 4. Big wheels keep on turning as the teacher union MESSA health plan has escalated to $16,100 per employee (a double digit % increase). This is $6,000 higher than comparable insurance. Interesting that support staff insurance is going down next year. 5. Salary step changes continue unabated while parents will pay on average about $100 more per year in student fees and in some cases upwards of $300. This continues a three year trend of dinging the parental pocket. 6. The deficit is created (along with excessive employee compensation) because there is no more Obama "Stimulus Money". The Board knew this was a short term infusion of cash and neglected to address the reality that this funding was disappearing. Washington is now broke and Lansing isn't in much better shape. Saline Schools is beyond the "end of the road" and is now stuck in the ditch. This could have been avoided if the Board and administration had confronted the financial issue head on instead of pandering to the vested interests. Unfortunately, the people who count most, the students, will bear the brunt of the mismanagement with a diminished student experience. Saline may be tops in education but has flunked Budgeting 101.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 11:31 a.m.

Another one biting the dust! County wide school system anyone?