D7 discusses possible cuts

By DANIEL HERATY
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS – Dearborn Heights School District No. 7 officials Monday outlined options to combat a looming $2.4 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.

Supt. Jeffrey Bartold cautioned residents against assuming the cuts already are taking place.

“I want to be clear that these are just reduction options,” he said.

The budget is expected to be approved at the regular meeting June 20 and must be approved by July 1 per state law.
Business Manager Angela Rudolph said the state has cut district funding.

“We’ve got a $2.4 million problem we need to do something about,” she said. “They’re basically telling everyone to live within your means. And if you don’t, we’ll send someone to do it for you.”

Rudolph said the district has already made cuts for the last two or three years in almost every department, including office supplies, curriculum and athletics.

“We’ve done a lot,” she said. “and unfortunately, not due to anything we’ve done wrong, we need to cut further.”

She said that there was no particular priority order for the cuts, but something needs to be done.

“This is just the hand we were dealt,” she said.

A districtwide pay cut, Rudolph said, would give officials the “biggest bang for their buck.” She added that a bill proposed by the Michigan Senate would cap employees’ health care at $13,000, or no more than 80 percent of the cost of medical benefits, depending on which method has the greater savings.

“There are incentives being tied to that, or maybe disincentives, if you don’t do that, you won’t get your full funding,” she said.

Another cost-cutting method being considered is eliminating middle school sports teams, which would entail merging the seventh- and eighth-grade teams together, instead of having two separate teams.

Officials also have the option of using the existing fund balance. The recommendation is to have about 15 percent of the budget in the fund balance, she said, but the district will end the current fiscal year with about 3 percent.

“That doesn’t leave us a whole lot if things should happen,” she said, “for example, gas prices are going up, if our energy bills come in higher than what we budgeted, if we get health care increases and with the low fund balance we have additional borrowing costs.

“It just doesn’t leave us in a good position for anything to go wrong.”

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at dheraty@bewickpublications.com.)