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Posted on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 10:32 a.m.

Ypsilanti school board must make $6.4 million in cuts, new CFO says

By Tom Perkins

The Ypsilanti school district 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 new chief financial officer Monday night.

David Houle started his presentation to the school board on balancing the district’s budget with remarks that almost immediately proved true.

“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. 

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 Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 11:23 a.m.

Those who have been around for a while will remember the chain of events which lead to this horrible mess. The current and long time teachers union president began a movement in the 90's to elect board members who would go along with the wishes of the union. This allowed the union leadership to amass raises from the Board, when administration tried to explain that funds were not sufficient to pay the kind of salaries and benefits they demanded. At one point in history, Dr. David Zulke was expelled from the negotiation process and Board members met with the YEA in closed session to settle the salary demands of the teachers union officials. Is it any wonder that the district is in this financial chaos?


Fri, Nov 27, 2009 : 10:03 p.m.

The good thing is that Houle didn't have to change his rallying cry by jumping from Willow Run to Ypsilanti. Everyone is in trouble. Let's work together to fix the problem instead of spending all our time finger pointing.


Fri, Nov 27, 2009 : 8:04 p.m.

wow, who was in control of the school for the last years, you dont have to be a mind reader to see this coming, so they ran the school in the ground and leave nice real nice...and higher taxes is not the answer better accounting of money by the school..


Wed, Nov 25, 2009 : 8:16 p.m.

You are more than welcome, I appreciate you thanking me for voting NO. You must be a teacher, not a taxpayer? EXCUSE ME....LAST TIME I CHECKED TEACHERS PAY TAXES TOO!!!!!


Wed, Nov 25, 2009 : 9:28 a.m.

I see several themes being repeated in the preceding comments. "get back to basics"..."blame the teachers"..."reduce the wages & benefits of the leadership"..."we need more tax dollars." While all have elements of truth, the collection of comments points to the need to quickly and completely move to a different system of educating our children, a system that moves power back to the parents and away from the state and the unions. Parents have abdicated their responsibility to educate their children to the state and local school boards, and to the teachers union. We must move from this archaic centralized system to a process where decisions are made at the most basic level, the family. Public education must look to successful educational processes such as home schooling and private and charter schools to employ their best practices. To do this, the biggest culprit of all, the teachers union must be eliminated. Union leadership is too strong and blocks necessary change. They are truly the tail wagging the dog. Unions have become powerful political entities with an agenda that is not concerned with the education of our children, but with protecting teachers jobs and promoting "progressive/liberal" issues. Until our communities address the obstacles to the basic education of our children, we will wallow in the pathetic


Wed, Nov 25, 2009 : 9:16 a.m.

It's time to start serious talks with Willow Run and/or Lincoln about consolidation. In this climate it doesn't make sense for Ypsilanti to have three separate school systems, with all the overhead that each requires. Yes, it's politically sensitive, but it's time to set that aside and crunch some numbers to get real data on what a consolidated system would look like. Also, I would agree that YPS needs to involve the community in their budgeting process. Why not reach out to all families who have chosen NOT to use YPS? Has there been any research done on why families leave and what would bring them back?


Wed, Nov 25, 2009 : 3:02 a.m.

sbbuilder, You are absolutely correct. Why is it that small private schools can provide such a wonderful education without all of the frills and pay their staff much less than public schools? Could it be all of the social requirements our government requires of the public schools. The schools shouldn't be a replacement for family or church. Let's get back to the basics and see what happens!


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 11:46 p.m.

I agree with some of the comments made by justlife about Ypsilanti Public Schools having unqualified individuals being kept around. I would go further and say that some individuals were completely incompetent at their job and yet they were kept in various six-figure positions for years. In fact there have been incompetent individuals that were simply shifted to "new" positions that had been created. All this to the detriment of the students. The district has a number of wonderful teachers, but due to poor administrators and decisions, the district has lost students year after year after year. I would be surprised if the new superintendent started making cuts at the top and worked his way down, assuming he would even make any cuts at the top. Mr. Martin came to the district with a lengthy list of "perks" or items that he wanted the district to pay for at his hiring. Had he cared about the district he should have known what the financial situation was coming in and not made so many demands. See the below link for the September 14th article on his compensation package.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 7:44 p.m.

How is it that we became a great industrial nation, foremost in the world in production, inventions, ideas with an education system consisting of one room schools? Every President up to Eisenhower went to a one room school. I would bet that not one of those teachers had a masters. Maybe not even a college degree at all. Sure, times have changed, and we've become more technically sophisticated. But how about the basics of the three R's? We can't even begin to compare our current crop of students with those of the turn of the century (1900, of course). Ever seen a McGuffy Reader? The standards were so much higher back then. What's the point? Simply this: Massively complex education systems gobbling up untold amounts of money are educating our children to such a low level that we are no longer able to compete worldwide. The silver lining here is that we may be forced to go back to the methods used many years ago that had such a profound effect on learning. We don't need more money to 'fix' this problem. We need a determination for excellence, and be damned to anything else that gets in the way.

scooter dog

Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 7:09 p.m.

Its called make do with what you get like everyone else has to do something the schools seem to think they are exempt from doing.Carte Blanche days are over so suck it up and make the cuts you need to make or do nothing and next time we vote you'll get even less,bank on it. And yes ypsilanti I voted no and your welcome,hope you have to suffer like most others.

scooter dog

Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 6:54 p.m.

Why doesent the state STOP paying aid to the big universitys that have multi BILLION dollar endowments and give it to the broke K-12 schools.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 6:48 p.m.

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. I don't know about that; Bobb seems to be working out really well so far for DPS...


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 5:42 p.m.

"Restore the funds" from where? Our state representatives don't have any money to "restore". The problem is Michigan residents aren't giving the state nearly as much money as they did because more than 15% are unemployed, the rest have taken pay cuts, and nobody's house is worth what it used to be. It's not that evil politicians of either party have taken away money for schools. The citizens are significantly poorer, so the state is poorer, so now the schools are poorer.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 5:33 p.m.

The millage would not have solved any of the mess our schools are faced with. Contact your State representatives and tell them to restore the funds for education.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 1:20 p.m.

Ypsilanti, Indeed, the "enhancement" millage would have given extra money to the schools, but the State's cuts mean that the enhancement would have quickly been converted into a replacement millage, and the schools would be back with their hands out in just a few years looking for additional "enhancements." The school funding model of "Just Ask The Taxpayer" is broken. Taxpayers have been stripped down to their shorts and I'm sorry, but there's nothing left to give. It's time for the schools to put everything back on the table and start making HARD DECISIONS about what needs to be kept and what needs to be shelved. It's time for them to question EVERY EXPENSE to determine whether the expense is a necessity or a nicety. It's time to examine every process to identify what's working and what's wasting money. Reconsider everything and justify spending the taxpayer's dime on it, knowing that every dime that's not being spent in the classroom is taking resources away from the classroom. If the process of determining how money is being spent by the schools were honest and transparent, I suspect most taxpayers would be shocked.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 1:05 p.m.

I concur with Martin Church on most of his views. However, I think we need the public school system, I support it, just not in it's current form. The main objective should be to educate the kids with the best resources available. Pay the qualified teachers, hold them accountable, decrease administrative cost, many are icons. Let the principals take control of their schools and report directly to the Superintendant, hold them accountable. Some bad decisions trying to take care of unqualified friends and special interest has help to put Ypsianti Schools more at risk. Many of the parents are not equipped to teach their children at home. Those who are, usually do a good job. The Public Schools use to do a good job too. Bring that back to the community.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 1:03 p.m.

ypsilanti, You are more than welcome, I appreciate you thanking me for voting NO. You must be a teacher, not a taxpayer?


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 12:56 p.m.

Ypsilanti Schools bad financial management is catching up. Too many retiree's brought back as consultants and paid enormous salaries, too many enormous administrative salaries. It's time to reconsider why you're there. I say retire those who are no longer effective and want to stay around just because they can. The Union needs to work in collaboration with the district to provide the best resources for the kids. It's catching up.

Martin Church

Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 12:28 p.m.

I agree, lets publish the same list the board got. and while we are renegoiating with the unions, Administrators need to plan on a pay cut of 20% also. sorry guys, I know you are new to the district but it is time to pay the piper for the stupidity of the last few boards who spent money recklessly. Let's now get creative and change how we educate our children. It is time for the parents to take back their roles and teach the kids at home.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 11:30 a.m.

Why doesn't the school board make its top-20 list available online so that the voters can tell the school board (and administration) what's most important to them? Otherwise, it looks like the taxpayers are just here to pay the bill... Confidential note to Dedrick Martin and David Houle: GET IT IN GEAR AND START TALKING TO THE TAXPAYERS!

dading dont delete me bro

Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 11:12 a.m.

smokescreens...smokescreens...was it a renewal or increase (the millage)...inquiring minds want to know. if it was an increase, who's got a job left to pay the increase? if it was a renewal, doh!


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 11:10 a.m.

That was supposed to be an ENHANCEMENT millage, not a millage to replace funds from the broke state of Michigan. I say the thanks here goes to the union heads, who decided that although they made out well when times were good, they should continue to make out well when times are bad. A lot of teachers are going to lose their jobs to protect the union leadership from the sacrifices that every other part of Michigan is experiencing.


Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 11 a.m.

And a special thanks goes out to all of you who voted against the millage. Looks like the impact of that decision will be both immediate and catastrophic.