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Northville School District Presents Uncertain Budget Future to Community

Rising costs and stagnant revenues are at issue for the district and could create a budget deficit, officials said.

could face a deficit sometime in the future, due to changing levels of state funding, the implementation of all-day kindergarten and increasing retirement costs.

Still, Superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher assured the more than 25 people in attendance at Monday night's school budget forum that things are much more stable than they were this time last year. In the summer of 2011, the school district was in the middle of contract negotiations with various employee unions and was considering the , such as and .

"The main takeaway is that on the cost side, there's the transitional cost to full-day kindergarten, which is really important, and the second one is the continuing increase in the retirement rate," said Mike Zopf, assistant superintendent of finance and operations. "Those are the two issues that we're trying to grapple with as we move forward."

Full-day kindergarten to begin in the fall

The Michigan legislature approved a measure last year requiring school districts to offer full-day kindergarten in order to receive full per pupil funding, which was $8,019 this school year. However, with full-day offerings come full-day costs, district officials said at the meeting, making clear that they will not receive additional dollars for offering full-day classes but the full amount of what they were previously receiving.

"Over 75 percent of our parents want full-day kindergarten," Superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher said. "The problem is we aren't getting more funding and we are increasing our staffing costs."

She also said there will be two sections of half-day kindergarten at the most, if at all.

Moving to the full-day kindergarten model will cost the district approximately $1.5 million.

For Kristin Hammoud, the parent of one kindergartener and an incoming kindergartener in the fall, the size of kindergarten classes are a concern.

"It's very disheartening," she said of the kindergarten budget update. Hammoud said her son is in a class with 25 other kindergarteners and no paraprofessional. While she said she is happy with the teacher, she is displeased that it doesn't appear next year's budget will allow for a reduced class size for her incoming kindergarten daughter.

"These kids need more attention," she said, adding that these are their formative learning years.

Retirement costs increasing

The district's payments into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) is increasing with the number of district workers retiring, Zopf said.

"We have to turn around and pay almost a quarter to MPSERS," he said, "for every dollar of wages and salaries paid out."

Last year, the district's union groups, including the, made big concessions and now pay into a high deductible health care plan.

"We have one plan for the entire school district," Zopf said. That has reduced the district's projected contribution in 2013 to $11 million from a previously projected $13 million under the old plan.

One person in the audience felt that the concessions were not enough and needed to be re-evaluated in the future.

"I don't know if people don't want to talk about it or what, but dealing with pay and benefits it seems like that's where the problem is," he said. "I work in the private sector and when my company went bankrupt I took big concessions. Today, I'm making about what a teacher makes but I'm working six days a week, 52 weeks a year."

He added, "I think we need to realize that yeah you guys took concessions ... but teachers do fairly well for themselves working 200 days a year."

Gallagher said that concessions have been made in salaries and benefits with existing contracts but is something that must be explored down the line. She said there is another factor to be considered when asking the district's employees to make concessions.

"On the flip side of that is that piece of looking to the future and how do we attract folks into a profession that needs our brightest, our strongest, our best to teach our kids," she said.

Much of the discussion revolved around the role that Gov. Rick Snyder and the state legislature play in awarding monies to schools. Come back to Northville Patch tomorrow for more on the school district's legislative update.

ConcernedParent May 15, 2012 at 03:24 PM
While I understand this parent's frustration. It seems absurd to put the blame on the teachers who have already made so many concessions. Is it not obvious that the problem is that the Foundation Allowance for Northville has remained at $8,000 per pupil for the last 10 years? And this is not adjusted for inflation, does not take into account growing technology needs, costs of increased standardized testing, or the fact that our buildings are 50 years old! The district has saved $9 million over the last 3 years. These have been painful cuts that have increased our class sizes at the ELEMENTARY level to 30+. We are now facing cutting our Media Specialists at a time when the Governor is signing legislation to hand public money to private cyber schools which have little track record of success and virtually no transparency of operation or accountability. The computers in our public schools are up to 8 or 9 years old. And yet the problem is the TEACHERS?
Denise Nash May 16, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Well said, Concerned Parent. And thank you to Mary Kay Gallagher! Mary Kay is a class act.
Angry Parent May 16, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I have an incoming Kindergartener and I'm not happy with the move to full day at all. I don't see a need for a 5 year old to spend a full day in class, especially without a change to the curriculum. There is no additional learning, only more hours. Sure 75% of the parents want full day. That means fewer hours to pay for some other form of child care. Parents should be ashamed. Do what's right for your kids, not what's best for your career. Don't be afraid to spend a little more time with your kids. The district (all districts really) continue to tell us they are losing money in this deal. What they are ignoring is the fact that Kindergarten has been a money maker. Previously you were receiving full pupil funding for a half-day student. Did anyone in the district try to return the excess? I believe the proposed legislation would allow the district to receive 50% of the per pupil funds for half-day students. Why is that wrong? Why can't we accommodate the 25% of the population that still wants half-day? Why did we think the solution was to incur additonal costs to implement full-day kindergarten? Why not find a way to fund the existing half-day programs with reduced funding. You never should have been receiving that much per pupil anyway. They were not full time students. Basically overspending your means all along. Not just Northville, but most all districts benefited from the former funding plan. I'd be more impressed if you demonstrated how to do more with less.
District employee May 17, 2012 at 02:21 PM
We do more with less everyday. Plus the option is there for you the district is going to run half day programs at 2 schools.

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