Ypsilanti school board must make $6.4 million in cuts, new CFO says
The Ypsilanti school districtÂ needs to make $6.4 million in cuts over the next two years to get it out of the red by 2014.
That was the message from the district's newÂ chief financial officer Monday night.
“It can be a frightening process, it can be a confusing process,” Houle said before explaining the requirements of the district's state mandated deficit elimination plan.
Roughly $811,000 of those cuts must come this fiscal year and $5.4 million next year.
“We can’t continue on in a deficit situation, and we can’t continue to operate in an anemic state,” Houle said.
Even if the board makes the necessary cuts, Houle said the projection assumes the state won’t further cut funding beyond what's scheduled this and next year. That projection was met with snickers and skepticism from board members Monday.
After the presentation, Superintendent Dedrick Martin distributed a list of five broad focus areas from which the board will consider making reductions. Each of the five focus areas includes lists of five to 20 sub-areas, which each board member was asked to rank in order of importance.
That combined list will be used to begin deciding where to make cuts, reductions or changes.
“There will be no perfect way to do this, but this does give us some kind of sense where the collective value of the board is in these different areas,” Martin said.
The district currently faces $2.2 million deficit and a projected $5.5 million deficit by the end of the year. It must submit a deficit elimination plan to the state by Dec. 15.Â
The district also is contending with a loss of revenue from declining student enrollment and a $292 per student reduction from the state aid allowance.
Martin first asked board members to immediately rank the sub-areas so Houle could draw up an initial outline of the deficit elimination plan in the coming days. But several board members objected and asked for more time.
“I do not want to go forward with an uneducated decision or a guess,” Trustee Kira Berman said. “I’m not comfortable doing that with something this important.”
Berman asked what a cut in sports funding, one of the sub-areas, would mean.
“Just like everything else, we have to explore what sports are out there and what it’s costing us,” Martin replied.
Martin told the board the exercise serves as a starting point for submitting an acceptable deficit reduction plan, and nothing is decided or locked in - even after the plan is submitted.
Among the more drastic cost-saving measures outlined were staff reductions at all levels, changes in graduation requirements, building closures, changing to title one status and wage concessions. Following a closed session at the end of the meeting, the board passed a resolution directing Martin to approach all bargaining units to open talks on wage and benefit concessions.
Should the district fail to submit an acceptable deficit elimination plan, the state could insert a financial manager, like it did with Robert Bobb in Detroit Public Schools, or halt monthly state aid payments.
“This would be catastrophic,” Houle said.
Board members have a Monday deadline for submitting their rankings and will further discuss possible cuts at the Dec. 14 meeting.
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at email@example.com or 734-623-2530.