Saline school board wants to open contracts with teachers, other unions
The Saline school board is asking its teachers’ union and three other employee groups to re-open their contracts to review wages and benefits.
That action, approved by the board Tuesday evening, comes in response to a budget shortfall resulting from the double whammy of a cut in state funding and the loss last week of a countywide millage proposal.
The board unanimously voted to direct Superintendent Scot Graden to ask the unions to re-open their contracts. Graden offered no further comment.
He will ask the Saline Education Association, which represents the teachers, along with the Educational Support Personnel, the Saline Area School Managers Association and the Saline Area Administrators Association to re-open their contracts.
The teachers' union contract was approved June 2008 and runs until 2012. It was a 3-year extension of the previous contract and includes a 2.5 percent wage increase each year, along with reductions in the district's contribution to health reimbursement accounts.
“Nov. 3 loomed as the day of deciding the next step,” Graden said. “Now, we need to take action.”Â
Washtenaw County voters firmly turned down a 2-mill proposal that would have sent an infusion of funding to all 10 of the county’s traditional school districts. The measure, rejected by about 58 percent of county voters (and 61.4 percent of voters in Saline), would have generated an additional $3.5 million annually for the Saline district, Graden said.Â
At the same time, the state has cut per-pupil funding by $292 for the 2009-10 academic year, a move that will cost Saline schools $1.2 million, Graden said.Â
While the district has a fund balance of $3.6 million, the board has a policy to hold at least 5 percent of the annual budget in reserve. The $3.6 million represents about 6 percent, Graden said.
To kick-start the idea of making cuts, board members at Tuesday night’s meeting suggested looking close to home for savings.Â
Board President David Friese suggested board members no longer take classes from the Michigan Association of School Boards, while Trustee Lisa Slawson suggested they give up their MacBook laptop computers. Trustee Amy Cattell wondered whether board members should forfeit the $30 a meeting they are paid.Â
“It’s a symbolic move, but it would be a start,” said Vice President David Medley.
Residents also made pleas and offers Tuesday, with some suggesting the district charge for sports and extra-curricular activities. David Rhoads, a business owner and member of the Saline City Council, donated nearly $600 Tuesday night and encouraged others to do the same.
In the meantime, a proposal to move the district's administrative and data center offices from Union School to Liberty School will have to waitÂ until the broader economic issues are resolved, Graden said. The move would have cost between $596,000 and $1.3 million, but the proposal also included looking at the sale of the historic Union School.
Liberty School, which is part of a 120-acre school campus that includes Saline Middle School, Heritage and Woodland Meadows schools, once served as Saline Middle School. The district leases space at Liberty School to a day care center, and it serves as a church and community group meeting place.
While the district begins to struggle to make cuts, one thing is clear, said Trustee Slawson.Â
“Sixty one percent of the voters in Saline voted the millage down. They want us to live within our means.”
Janet Miller is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at email@example.com or 734-623-2530.