School board will mull cuts to offset state revenue loss

By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON — Efforts to deal with the expected loss of $1.6 million in state aid will continue tomorrow night as the Trenton Public Schools Board of Education meets to consider cuts discussed last week during a public workshop.

“Nobody likes having to look at making cuts,” Supt. John Savel said, “but I think we had a very honest and frank discussion about what district could and could not afford.”

Officials are expecting to lose the funding from its $27 million budget for 2009-10 because of per-pupil cuts by the Michigan Legislature and additional funding cuts for certain districts including Trenton called for by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“On Monday we will make a final recommendation to the board and ask for approval based on the information we’ve got and feedback from the community at the (workshop) on what we think is best for the students,” Savel said.

Board members last week generally agreed to distribute cuts across all budget areas.

Since then, Savel said, members have talked about being more willing to go into the district’s $4 million fund balance for the remainder of this year to avoid taking things from students who have already started in certain programs, such as elementary band.

Since the state cuts were announced, however, he and other officials have said that nothing is off the table when it comes to making up the difference.

In his presentation last week, Savel said that even if there were no state reductions this year, the fund balance would fall to about $1.8 million. The reductions already announced would bring it to just $200,000 if the district does nothing.

Trenton serves 2,866 students. The announced cuts would reduce its per-student funding of $8,746 by $562 en route to the $1.6 million total reduction.

Cost-cutting measures discussed include asking some teachers to retire and bringing them back as contract employees, saving about $220,000, eliminating full-day kindergarten ($150,000), eliminating general athletics funding ($496,000) and eliminating general education busing ($500,000).

“I think everyone has come to the realization that because of what the state has done that any cuts that are made will have an impact on kids,” Savel said.

Although there’s still a chance the Lansing funding cuts may not come to pass if legislators act before the state budget is finalized at the end of the month, he said he has his doubts that anything will change.

“When I hear the Legislature is out deer hunting and the governor’s out stumping for things other than education, I’m concerned,” Savel said. “Dec. 1 is right around corner. They need to pull their shirtsleeves up and come to an amiable conclusion on this.”

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