You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 10 p.m.

Saline school community gathers to discuss budget cuts, school finances

By David Jesse

As more than 200 Saline school district parents, staff members and students streamed into Liberty School tonight to talk about the district’s financial state, they quickly grabbed all the available copies of the night’s PowerPoint presentation.

Superintendent Scot Graden told those without copies the numbers would be on the screen behind him.

And if they had trouble seeing it?

“I can assure you the numbers aren’t pretty,” he said. “You might not want to get too close.”

The next couple hours proved Graden right.


Saline Superintendent Scot Graden

The budget numbers Saline is facing paint a stark picture.

On a $52.4 million budget, the district - thanks to funding cuts from the state, enrollment losses and other factors - is anticipating a $5,465,000 budget shortfall over the next 18 months.

The shortfall is equivalent to the district completly closing its middle school, laying off all the middle school staff and not educating the middle school students, Graden told the audience.

The district is working to avoid that, but cuts are almost certain. If teachers are laid off, the earliest staff would leave at the beginning of March, thanks to contract rules, Graden said.

Graden spent several hours tonight wading through financial numbers, pausing often to take questions from the audience. They wanted to know about issues such as step increases for teachers, transportation costs, increasing pay-for-play fees and even schools of choice.

Parent Marcie Williams, who has two children in the district, said she hopes everything is on the table.

"I think (the district administrators and school board) need to look at every line item and see if it is helping students learn," she said. "If not, then they should cut it."

District administrators will meet at the end of the month to determine any non-staff saving measures. In late January, Graden plans to bring any possible mid-year staff reductions to the school board.

Saline, like all other districts across the state, has taken a $292 cut in per-pupil funding in the last several weeks from the state. Projections have those cuts continuing and growing into next year.

Also, earlier this month, voters turned down a countywide schools enhancement millage that would have raised $30 million a year for five years to be divided between Washtenaw County’s 10 traditional school districts.

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.


sas parent

Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 10:13 p.m.

Heim continues his reign as president of the teacher's union. Word around the district is that he did not solicit input from teachers.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

Kym, Very well written email, I agree with everything you said. Does anyone out there know if Tim Heim is still holding the same position with the union? Has Tim met with all the Saline teachers to hear what they have to say?


Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 6:10 p.m.

Thank you, Ms. Williams, for having the courage to speak up to what has now basically become a tyranny by a few people against students and teachers. I hear your husband's union and another are open to reasonable discussion. Hopefully there is some way to bring the heads of the teachers' union to see reason, too.

Kym Williams

Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 4:21 p.m.

To the teachers of SAS, I cannot thank you enough for the courage to post your frustrations and insight here. My position as a parent of three Saline students far supersedes my position as the spouse of the Saline high school principal. I have held my tongue for years hoping to better understand how the teachers union worked. As of today, the only understanding I have is the "hold firm" and "don't give an inch" mentality that has already proved to drive many Michigan school districts into bankruptcy. This situation reminds me of one that I lived just a few short years ago. As a mortgage lender for Fannie Mae I would often get messages from our top dogs telling us that everything was great and to assure our customers that owning a home was so easy that almost anyone could afford one, sometimes two. And I did just that. I bought what my leaders were selling and passed it on with the same vigor and passion they did. I often wonder how many families I helped throw into foreclosure with my blind devotion of what I was told was right. This isn't a game and it isn't right. Our teachers will lose their jobs, force class size to a maximum, and have a negative impact on our children that cannot be undone. I have a deeply vested interest in keeping our teachers, those individuals who work tirelessly for my 10th grader, 6th grader, and 2nd grader, employed in this district. I have talked to some of you outside of the umbrella of your union to discover that, just like my family, you are absolutely willing take a cut in salary and benefits which would allow you to stay in your classrooms, but have your hands tied by your own union leaders. None of us is blind to the fact that the economy continues to suffer. To expect the remaining taxpayers of our district to fund pay raises and additional health care benefits is not only absurd, but selfish and totally irresponsible. I did not move my children to this state to learn these lessons or lack of character values. Olkendienye, as a parent I support you and as the spouse of the high school principal I support you. The ball is in your court, Tim. If you have a long term plan that will positively impact my children please speak up, otherwise quit playing politics with our students and get out of the damn way. -Kym Williams

David Jesse

Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 2:07 p.m.

Yes. We have calls out. We also have FOIAs in to all the districts for the teacher union contracts. We've gotten several back but are waiting on others.


Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 2:02 p.m.

David- Any calls to the Superintendent? WEA? SEA?

David Jesse

Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 1:05 p.m.

@schoolbooster: we are trying to confirm this. anyone with any e-mails, etc. talking about this, please e-mail them to me at


Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 12:25 p.m.

I get up and do something about it, olkedienye. One of the things I did was vote for the millage. I regret that now. The position of the WEA makes it clear that was a "protect teachers from the Michigan economy" millage, not an educational enhancement millage. I trusted these people who now say they would rather force large numbers of their coworkers into unemployment than give up a few thousand dollars of annual compensation. I don't know how they sleep at night. They had better not ask me for more money ever again. I don't know anything about the newspaper business but I don't get how there hasn't been a story about this. The county teacher's representatives announced Wednesday morning that they were going to drive districts and a lot of teachers over a cliff. How is that not worth reporting?


Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 9:08 a.m.

I have to echo lifeisgood. As a SAS teacher and a2 resident, it is difficult to feel you have been spoken for. TH was elected by our teaching body but to not have a discussion with constituents is disheartening. How the WEA can block vote to not open concessions while each district negotiates individually is absurd...the best of both worlds. I understand the frustration, as evident by the millage. While it is ultimately the school board and superintendent who are to blame (they, after all agreed to the negotiations...and offered 2.5% increase, it wasn't bargained for) the teachers will get the heat. The irony is that as an a2 taxpayer and voter, the millage was supported by the group with the most to lose, a2. The surrounding districts would have made money on their money. What is done is done. I can only hope the union can show good faith, or like people have said here, the next round of negotiations will be a bloodbath as far as teachers are concerned. Funny, I thought unions were for all of their workers, not just the ones who come to work the most days. Concessions taken by all members to protect all members. It is bigger than Saline, the system is broken, it is hard to be a part of it. Those that don't agree have little power (until new union elections), we can't feasibly leave the union, dues are still taken out of our check regardless, why pay and not be protected, assuming you've shown up to work more days than other teachers in your district. There are a lot of teachers doing a lot of good things in SAS and surrounding school districts. Support them. Those that aren't doing their job, make your voice heard. While it is difficult to get tenured teachers removed, the biggest voice in change that is the community. There is a lot of frustration in the education posts here, I'm curious to see how many people get up from the keyboard and do something about it.


Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 8:54 a.m.

Yes it has been told that the Saline Teachers union have been advised to not open the contract negotiations. Where do the majority of the teachers stand, who knows. But, I think from all the conversations from the parents it is clear. We moved to Saline for a great education and the other resources the School District has to offer. Cut them and people will find other alternatives. Why should Heim care, I believe he resides in the Milan School District. There are other things in the contract besides Salaries that could help reduce the districts costs; paying for teachers to go to conferences, and other education stipends. Go to the MEA and look at offering buy outs to teachers at the cost of the State. Go to the state level and start change. Yes there are simple things to cut like 5 grade camp or yearly field trips. These help the kids to grow and learn, but are they a necessity. No, Saline already cut the 8th grade trip to DC last year. We in the private sector have had to either change our lifestyles, or find ways to change our business to survive in this economic time. Look at leading the way to change, rather than holding the line and waiting for the consequences. We have been forced to think inside the box for too many years, the time is here for change, please embrace it. Yes the kids are stressed, and so are the parents.


Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 8:42 a.m.

Mr. Heim and the rest of the union leadership have a legal responsibility to represent the best interest of their membership. It seems to me there is a strong case here that they are not doing so. They are willing to sacrifice a big chunk of their membership just to keep their own salaries high. They won't say that, of course. They'll say that the millage should have passed. Except it didn't and you can bet any future millages won't pass now that they're making it clear the millage was really about teacher salaries all along. They'll say the state should send more money. Except the state doesn't have more money and they aren't going to get any money any time soon. And finally they'll say that they aren't the ones who laid off all those teachers. Except that they're the only ones who could have stopped it. They already know all these things. So at what point is this selfishness more than just cold-hearted greed, and actually become an unfair labor practice due to failure to represent the whole membership?


Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 6:51 a.m.

lifeisgood, You give us hope with what you have just said and I quote you in regards to the Saline Teachers agreeing to come to the table and open their contract for possible changes, "My answer would be yes. Most of my colleagues would agree" My question for you then is if most teachers agree with this then why on earth would Mr. Heim take his radical stance of NO? It is obvious that you do care about not hurting the kids and it saddens me to read how you say, "the kids are stressed out because they don't know if what is important to them will be cut" Does Mr. Heim know the kids are stressed out? Does he care if the kids are stressed out? Mr. Heim is holding our children hostile to his own personal greed and unrealistic demands. I hope you can round up the other teachers and have a meeting with Mr. Heim as soon as possible. As a Saline graduate, as a Saline resident with one child still in school and two already graduated I want to thank you LifeIsGood for your willingness to open the contract and make cuts which will impact our children the least.


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 10:06 p.m.

As a Saline teacher, but more importantly a parent in the district, this NO vote makes me furious. NO ONE asked me if I would be willing to open our contract. My answer would be yes. Most of my colleagues agree. Am I at the top of the pay scale, no I am not. Do I know that overcrowded classrooms would hurt all the kids, undoubtly yes I do. What bothers me the most is my own kids are stressed out because they don't know if what is important to them will be cut.


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 9:42 p.m.

A2CarGuy-PaperTiger-salinedad-SchoolBooster-DBHolden-DoNotTauntHappyFunBall-InsideTheHall and RB, It is time that we all show up at the next Saline School Board meeting and have a showdown at the "OK Corral" with Mr. Tim Heim who is going to get a rude awakening. Just keep in mind that the Saline School Board has two members who are retired public school teachers who have no interest in our interests as taxpayers. Their "fat cat gold plated benefits" will be on the chopping block and you know they will never go along with the taxpayers. Those two are David Friese and Dave Medley. Just keep that in mind when they try and shut down input from those attending who want to speak against Mr. Heim's stance.

David Jesse

Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 8:23 p.m.

@A2CarGuy: i have yet to receive a copy of the letter from Saline or any other union. Those who have them and would be willing to share, please e-mail at


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 8:19 p.m.

Tom Bower: Yes, I agree with you that Saline is the BEST school district; however, you're missing the point. The point is that ALL of us have to tighten our belts in these economic times, and that includes the teachers/teachers' union. It can no longer be the status quo. I'm glad that you can afford the higher taxes, but not everyone is as fortunate as yourself. It's like your own personal budget. If your expenses exceed your income, then you have to make adjustments/cuts. The school system should be no different. And, they all have to pull together to come up with a solution. Nothing should be sacred, i.e., salary and health benefits. With Scot Graden at the helm, I'm sure that he will find a solution, especially with the site-based-shared-decision-making frame of mind. He's the best thing that ever happened to Saline Area Schools and I have complete confidence in his ability.


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 8:17 p.m.

Tim (Bower and Heim) - The millage ship has sailed. That was supposed to be an enhancement millage. It's failure is not the reason we are in our current awful position. School districts are suffering because the state of Michigan is imploding. The current union position all but assures that no other millage will pass in Washtenaw County for a generation. I have never seen the UAW take a position as out of touch as the one the "Washtenaw County Education Association" just took. Who are these guys (and yes, you can be sure they are guys)? This leaves me with three questions: 1) When are the contracts of local teachers' ("Education") associations up for renegotiation? You can be sure by that time there will be strongly anti-union boards in place, who will be directing (probably new) Superintendents to accept nothing other than severe concessions from the unions. 2) Just how many low-seniority teachers can a district lay off before they run into legal limits of class size and program cuts? 3) Where is with this story? I have at least two copies of the ridiculous Tim Heim (Saline union boss) letter that has been making the rounds. Surely must have 10 of them by now.

Tom Bower

Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 7:35 p.m.

What is crazy is that Saline and other out-county districts voted down a millage that would have returned 20 percent on the dollar. Where in today's market can you get a return of 20 percent? As a teacher at a public school academy which under current law cannot receive an regional enhancement millage, but which can and does receive money from the WISD special education enhancement millage that voters approved several years ago (yes, those who believe public school academies cannot receive any local tax dollars are seriously misguided in their thinking) I was pleased to vote yes knowing that every dollar in increased taxes I paid would generate $1.20 in revenue for the Saline Area Schools -- the district in which I live -- How to pay for my extra $200 in taxes per year? First, it would only be $180 after federal income tax deduction. Second, no longer subscribing to the Ann Arbor paper is a savings of about $160 per year. The additional $20 is chump change. One of the reasons the Saline schools are so outstanding is their excellent teachers. And, recent studies show that teachers are one of the most, if not the most, important components in improving the achievement of students. A teacher in the Saline district, or any district, earning $75,000 per year is worth that and even more. Look at the amount our society pays for professional athletes who contribute nothing except entertainment value. Consider how much our country wastes on wars in far off places --- Iraq and Afghanistan. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. I am confident the numbers Graden is providing are accurate. I am confident Graden and his team will creatively and effectively deal with the current financial crisis and that Saline will maintain its position as one of the premier school districts in Michigan.

Jimmy Olsen

Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 7:05 p.m.

PaperTiger - like SchoolBooster said 'it was the union HEADS' that got together. Don't automatically assume all teachers agree with their "management". I would guess the rank-and-file would perhaps have a different opinion if an actual vote were taken. Lets give it a little time and see how it plays out - maybe their blinders will come off. Opening the contract only required some talking - nothing was required from either side but listening. I think the "union heads" need to listen to their membership a little more. From a public relations standpoint - they are losing fast with many parents.


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 6:20 p.m.

SchoolBooster: Again, as the teachers see it it is better to spread the cost to the tax payers than have any discussion on real consessions. they forget many of the same taxpayers have been laid off, lost their insurances, taken pay cuts, pay a portion of their insurance. Another tax will not pass as long as teachers are not willing to give. The silent concessions that included a change in health insurance saving 500,000 is a drop in the bucket when the total cost is 4,000,000. Again, they would rather see cuts in personnel than pay any portion of their own benefits. Higher class sizes just means that the teachers left will be paid more by contract. We are not asking each teacher to take a 6500 pay cut, but in the scheme of things, if that's what it takes then that is what should be done. If the teachers paid 25% of their health insurance cost that would save the school 1,000,000.000 and probably average out to be less than 4000 per teacher. That is not just a band-aid as they suggest but a real savings this year and every year going forward. If teachers had to pay a portion of their own premium then maybe they would look at alternatives to MESSA providing coverage. They forget that a lot of people did not get pay raises this year, but the teachers did. What about freezing pay. Again, most people didn't get any SSA cost of living increase nor a raise, but our costs have gone up. Again, their silent concessions seem to be elimination of people. Unless you are one of the people cut, it works out great for those who are left. Again, it is like throwing the weak to the dogs. You are absolutely right in your comments. I'm glad that I voted NO and so are a lot of other people in Saline. The teachers should be ashamed of themselves that they are not willing to give up anything, and just want the status quo. Hurting the kids???? Who is REALLY hurting the kids. Definitely not the taxpayers - we've given enough.


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 5:41 p.m.

So the news is out: The county union heads got together and decided not to make ANY "concessions." What an unbelievably cold-hearted position to take against students and lower-seniority staff. I had too much faith in them. I voted for the millage. Now I wish I could go back in time and vote against it.


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 7:16 a.m.

RB, Excellent points you make, I was thinking the same thing. Keep in mind that the Middle School with only two grades includes a massive building and grounds area (I graduated in this school in 1977). The High School encompasses 4 grades in one building, some elementary schools encompass 4 grades in one building so Mr. Graden's math does not add up. The Middle School should be the second costliest school to run behind the MASSIVE ridiculous high school. What an awful waste of taxpayer money. Something is wrong in this state when public high schools are more lavish and splendid than the HQ's for virtually all Fortune 500 companies!!!!


Wed, Nov 18, 2009 : 6:05 a.m.

I'm confused. Mr. Graden says "The shortfall is equivalent to the district compeletly closing its middle school, laying off all the middle school staff and not educating the middle school students, Graden told the audience." Since the shortfall is $5.5 million and Mr. Graden says the shortfall is about the same as the cost to run the Middle school that means the Middle schools costs about $5.5 million to run. The Middle school teaches 2 grades. That means $2.25 million per grade. There are 13 grades. 13 x $2.75 million = $35.75 million. Saline has a $52.4 million budget. Seems like Saline schools should have a $16.65 million surplus. Are Middle school students particularly cheap to teach?


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 9:07 p.m.

Ralph That is not nearly enough. The TSA will yield only about $700K and will have no impact until the 10/11 school year. $1K educational development will yield only $400K. There are no savings by giving up a raise. There needs to be a 5% salary cut along with a $600 reduction in benefits per employee. Raising pay for play (it was raised thise year) is a hidden tax on the parents. Add in the fund raisers and the athletes are carrying their weight. As Lee Iaacoca said years ago: "It's freeze time boys."


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 9:04 p.m.

Ralph That is not nearly enough. The TSA will yield only about $700K and will have no impact until the 10/11 school year. $1K educational development will yield only $400K. There are no savings by giving up a raise. There needs to be a 5% salary cut along with a $600 reduction in benefits per employee. Raising pay for play (it was raised thise year) is a hidden tax on the parents. Add in the fund raisers and the athletes are carrying their weight. As Lee Iaacoca said years ago: "It's freeze time boys."


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 8:37 p.m.

The teachers union realizes that they will have to give things up. But the cuts are not going to be 30% in salaries or 50% in benefits. They'll give up their TSA that the Board gave them (not asked for), their contracted raise and the $1,000 that the district gives each teacher for educational development every year. In addition, things like pay to play for sports will also have to be instituted.


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 7:53 p.m.

SalineDad: You said it all. It's time for everyone (and I'm talking all unions, except for support staff, as they have already done their part) to step up to the plate and start paying for their benefits, I'd say about 30% should take care of it. Taxpayers can no longer give them a free ride. That's the best solution that will not directly affect the kids.


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 4:09 p.m.

So, I heard on the radio today that the State House has been in session a total of 104 days this year, and I believe the Senate 90. Oh, and they just took a two week break for hunting season and vacation. The problem lies in Lansing, and its more than just the problem with schools.

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 12:23 p.m.

Check out a great article today 11/17 at:

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 9:31 a.m.

The issue is fogged over because the School Unions have the largest chunk of expenses in the budget BUT they continually press for cut-backs everywhere else. Cutting bus service is not going to solve a $5 million issue, neither is charging for sports, or privatizing lawn mowing. The only way to get at a $5million expense is lower wages and the 100% coverage (far far above the norm) benefits. A single classroom of 30 kids enjoys total revenues of over $300,000 for one 9-10 month period. How much of that revenue goes toward salaries and benefits? and how much goes to the actual teaching of kids? Any regular business could teach 30 kids (in any grade) on $300,000 per year. Private schools in the area (Montessori, Christian, Catholic, etc.) do it for half that and less AND with better results. What are the differences? Union wages and benefits. Michigan is suffering a Single state Depression (Saline too)- 8 years now and NO SIGNS of a change. We can not pay Union wages and benefits from years gone by. Unions need to take a 20-30% cut in wages and about a 50% cut in benefits - that is the only way left we can solve a $5 Million problem in in Saline given the state of Michigan's future.

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 9:07 a.m.

Check out a new blog in town:

DB Holden

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 8:39 a.m.

Excellent work by Supt. Graden setting the landscape in a nonemotional facts based way. I'll admit voting No on the WISD millage. Higher taxes is not the solution. The solution ultimately rests in Lansing with the state government. Until then, local districts must find solutions. I applaud Supt. Graden for seeking to open the collective bargaining agreements. It is abudantly clear that the only way to achieve a balanced budget is to obtain concessions from the bargaining units. While this may be painful it is better than the alternative which is deep staff and program cuts. The reality is the tax revenue base has shrunk and there is no silver bullet to solve this. Many of us in the private sector (those that have survived) have felt the pain of the economic collapse. Reduced benefits, higher medical premiums, loss of retirement plans, loss of 401K matching, furloughs with no pay, no annual merit raises, etc. While Supt. Graden indicated that the bargaining units have been receptive to his overture we can expect the climate to change as hard decisions are made. To Supt. Graden and the school board, those of us who opposed the millage have got your back. The hard decisions must be made to create a sustainable district moving forward.


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 8:35 a.m.

Advice for EVERY Superintendent from someone who supports schools and voted for the millage: Re-open teacher contracts (not just support staff, but everyone). Make real efforts to offer solutions that result in balanced budgets for the life of the contract. Teachers can do math. Most will see what has to be done. If they don't agree, proceed with your best offer. Clearly you'll have community support with whatever happens next.


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 8:32 a.m.

salinedad, thanks for the detailed information. I was shocked to read that ten years ago Plante Moran warned the Saline School District of the approaching storm clouds in regards to pension and health care costs and that the way to solve this was through premium sharing with the unions ( still not happening) and looking at other health care providers besides MESSA ( still not happening). So what was a $25 million dollar cushion is now going to be a $5.5 million dollar deficit. This reminds me of what has happened to the auto companies over the past 10 years, do we want to see this happen with public education? Up to 8% raises the past few years for the teachers while enrollment drops so they just increase class size? How does any of this make sense? Oh, but we have a contract and cannot dare ask the teachers to open it up? Let's not be proactive, it is better to be reactive? I fear that the teacher's union will simply want to cut programs, lay off the newest and most cost efficient teachers and make cuts anywhere but to their gold plated fat cat pensions and health benefits. I hope I am wrong as this will only hurt the kids and isn't that what we want to focus on is not hurting kids?


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

The comparisons to Michigan districts are helpful, but it would also be interesting to see how Saline compensation compares to the states that house the "transplant" (i.e. Toyota and Honda) automakers we now compete against. Or if Mr. Graden had a crystal ball, Michigan in about two years. Things are about to change state-wide. Let's hope everyone can be reasonable. If not, Mr. Graden clearly has the support of the community to do what he has to do.

David Jesse

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 8:09 a.m.

DagnyJ: There was no bitterness and very little mention of the millage.


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 7:32 a.m.

Saline residents are lucky to have Scott Graden. His willingness to have this meeting is evidence of his excellent leadership. When will AAPS hold a similar meeting? To those who attended: Did the meeting have any tinge of ugliness, with millage supporters/opponents criticizing each other?


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 1:28 a.m.

As a Saline parent, I can tell you that the meeting was very sobering. Mr. Graden did a very good job of communicating in a very open and straight forward manner about our situation. Bottom line, we need to reduce our cost of operations by $5.4 million over the next 2 years to keep from running out of money. I learned that as a district our tax rate is about in the middle compared to other districts in the state and that our administrative overhead is among the lowest in the state. (lowest 10% for overhead expense in the state) I also learned that our teachers are paid on average about $68,000 per year in salary placing our teachers in the top 5% of the state in pay and that our teachers and administrators do not pay anything for their health benefits. (Something that only 4% of all districts in the state do today.) Our teachers receive a 5.5% step increase in addition to a 2.5% general increase. In essence a 8% increase in pay until they reach the top of the range which takes about 10 years. (Our range max. for a masters plus 10 is $89,000). I also learned that in 1999 Saline had a reserve of over $25 million. At that time, Plante Moran recommended to Saline that while the district was in good shape financially, they should begin to look at premium sharing with its workforce and be sensitive to the rapidly increasing cost of pension in the state of Michigan. Plante Moran also recommended that the district begin to look at options other than MESSA for health care due to the higher premiums that MESSA charged for the same coverage that could be secured through a direct contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. (our annual health premium is around $4M for our teachers). In the 10 years since this was recommended, this has not been implemented. Instead the district has drawn down it's reserve and increased class size rather than asking our employees to contribute to the cost of health insurance nor ask them to move away from MESSA as the insurance provider. This showed me that the Saline Community has been very supportive our teachers, administrators, and staff over the years, as our abilty to pay allowed. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. The good news is that Mr. Graden indicated that our 2 unions and our 2 associations have indicated a willingness to meet to discuss the fiscal situation of the district. (although none of them have agreed to reopen their contract as of yet) Hopefully, reasonable people will respond in a reasonable manner to the fiscal situation we face today. Like many homes in our community, our ability to provide as much as we have in the past is not possible and it is time for everyone to step up for the best interests of our children, for they should be the first and the only priority as we work our way through this unfortunate time.

Tom Bower

Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 12:09 a.m.

I attended tonight's meeting. Some observations. Scot Graden did an excellent job of communicating the issues to the community. As always, he was open to questions and answered each one directly. He and the Saline Area Schools are to be commended for providing district residents with a wealth of information. His transparency is refreshing. As he stated, several of the district's bargaining units have already agreed to sizeable reductions -- I believe one unit was eight percent and another was around eleven percent. He said he has initiated communication with the remaining bargaining units and the response to date is encouraging, although no formal discussions have yet taken place. Under Graden's leadership Saline schools will weather the current financial storm and remain Washtenaw County's top best school district.


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 11:22 p.m.

Thanks for the story and the link to the presentation. Was there any explanation on why the staffing (salaries and health line items) appear to increase while the number of enrollments is significantly decreasing? The number of teachers corresponds to the number students, doesn't it?


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 10:59 p.m.

Ok......if it was YOUR middle school child not getting an education because there weren't any teachers to educate him/her, would you still feel the same way? Especially since you were also paying MUCHO taxes to the same school district not providing said education?


Mon, Nov 16, 2009 : 10:12 p.m.

McKinley told me this budget crisis was all made up. The schools need to check every line item because, you know, they could have misplaced $5.4 million. --- I'm glad to hear they are laying off the entire middle school staff. They can suffer just like the rest of us. --- If they want to teach my child, they can do it for minimum wage.