Mid-year teacher layoffs, pay-less paydays still possible for Ypsilanti schools
AnnArbor.com file photo
Editor's note: The amount of money Ypsilanti is expected to save by cutting 4.5 teachers and the district’s website revenue has been corrected in this story.
Ypsilanti is expected to pink slip the equivalent of 4.5 teachers in the coming weeks to help eliminate an approximately $2.02 million structural deficit.
The 4.5 teachers, pending board approval, will be laid off from the secondary schools — those affected will be some combination of staff from New Tech, the high school and middle school, Superintendent Dedrick Martin said Monday.
Despite consolidating with Willow Run Community Schools in July, Ypsilanti still is responsible for its own finances through June, the end of the current fiscal year.
Ypsilanti laid off 4.5 high school teachers a year ago, when its enrollment declined from about 3,782 in fall 2010 to 3,664 in fall 2011, a loss of 118 students.
District officials said Ypsilanti ended the 2011-12 academic year with 3,588 students. It currently has 3,365 students enrolled. The decline of 223 students is equal to nearly $1.7 million in per-pupil funding from the state.
The district budgeted for a loss of just 50 students. More than 50 percent of the 223 students Ypsilanti lost were high schoolers, officials said.
They attributed a majority of the loss to the two new charter schools that opened in the Ypsilanti community in fall 2012, WSC Academy and South Pointe Scholars.
Financial officer Cathy Secor presented Ypsilanti’s budget situation to the newly appointed Board of Education in December. At Monday’s meeting, Martin discussed how district officials will propose addressing the shortfall — with the state’s deadline for submitting Ypsilanti’s ongoing Deficit Elimination Plan (DEP) looming.
All public school districts and charter schools operating with a deficit fund balance must submit an annual plan to the Michigan Department of Education detailing how they intend to get their finances back in shape.
Willow Run Community Schools, with which Ypsilanti will merge in July, also must submit a DEP to the state by the state’s Jan. 25 deadline. Willow Run, however, does not have a current-year deficit, said Superintendent Laura Lisiscki.
Despite Ypsilanti and Willow Run’s plans to consolidate, the state is still requiring the two districts to submit separate DEPs. Martin explained the DEPs really are moot, considering the plans will be for districts that no longer will exist.
Willow Run also lost students from last year to Fall Count Day 2012, approximately 181 students, totaling about $1.3 million in lost revenue.
Willow Run will not need to make any budget amendments at this time, Lisiscki said. The district made its staffing adjustments before Count Day.
“We saw early signs of (enrollment) being down further than we thought. So we had a number of retirements from the spring that we didn’t fill until fall when we were sure we could,” Lisiscki said.
Ypsilanti wasn’t so lucky.
In the fall, Ypsilanti was forced to hire back some staff members it had laid off in May in order to meet special education requirements through the state, Secor said. The district initially cut about 45 special education positions for the 2012-13 academic year.
The 4.5 teachers would be in addition to the reduction of one administrator at the high school that already has taken place. Ypsilanti High School Principal Rob Belous resigned, effective Dec. 24, 2012, after more than two months on administrative leave.
Martin said the decision was made not to fill Belous’ position but to finish the school year with Ypsilanti New Tech Principal Cory McElmeel sharing his time between both buildings and YHS Assistant Principal Aaron Rose helping to carry out the head principal duties.
Martin said the district also had some additional money come in that it had not budgeted for, including about $3,000 in advertising revenue from ads running on the top of YPS’ website. It also sold its latest student-built home from the Regional Career Technical Center’s building program for $163,500. In all, the reduction of 4.5 teachers and the additional revenue is expected to total about $450,000.
Ypsilanti also is in the process of moving the high school’s graduation ceremony from the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center to Pease Auditorium at EMU for a savings.
Because Ypsilanti’s high school student population has declined in recent years, its graduating classes have gotten smaller, Martin said.
“This year’s class is not going to be that much different — 20 to 30 students less maybe. But we’ve been small enough the past 5 years, quite honestly, where we probably could have done it (moved the commencement ceremony),” Martin said. “But historically, we’ve always done it there (at the convocation center). People like it. We’re just to the point where we’re counting every penny.”
Martin said there are some other possible budget reductions the district may have to explore to get closer to the $2.02 million shortfall figure. He said district officials and the joint Board of Education intend to further discuss both Ypsilanti and Willow Run’s budgets, finances and deficit elimination plans during a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Ypsilanti High School.
Martin said because there are many budget uncertainties and requirement uncertainties as a result of the consolidation, district officials believe it’s best to move a little more slowly and methodically with this round of mid-year budget cuts than they might have in the past.
“We’re still waiting on a lot of information from the state, advice from lawyers and the like,” he said.
In July 2012, Ypsilanti officials sounded the alarm on a cash-flow problem that could prevent staff from receiving paychecks at various points throughout the school year. The district made it through the low points in September and December when it also was projected to have insufficient funds in its bank account to pay employees on time.
However, Martin said January and February, the other two months targeted for cash-flow issues, are still up in the air.
“We’re taking it week by week,” he said. “It’s still a concern. I think we’ll be able to do enough to make it through this school year, but it’s still a concern.”
Students come and go in the middle of the year, taking their per-pupil foundation allowances with them, and “you can’t predict the weather,” Martin said, explaining some of the district’s cash-at-hand depends on a lack of snow plow services and other winter-related maintenance expenses.
Thursday’s Board of Education meeting is open to the public. Download an agenda here.