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Budget Represents Unprecedented Hard Times for Northville Schools, Board Says

For Northville Public Schools – one of the most renowned districts in Michigan – the approval of the 2011-12 budget means big changes for officials and employees.

will spend the next year coping with unfamiliar territory after the school board voted to approve its $65 million general fund budget Tuesday night.

The budget was approved unanimously, except for treasurer Joseph Hige, who was absent. The board voted to lay off seven classroom paraprofessionals and one administrative aide, and to convert six full-time aides into part-time employees.

School board president Joan Wadsworth said a nearly $5 million deficit has put the district in an “unheard of” situation.

“Certainly, this level of layoffs is something we have not seen at this district,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “Some of the people that were at the meeting last night were people that were laid off. This has been very, very hard on all of us.”

Staff, teacher cuts and privatization

Balancing the budget has meant laying off about 78 employees, said Donald Thomas, the director of Human Resources for Northville schools.

“We eliminated about 52 teaching positions – which means that about 65 people were laid off because some of those people were part-time,” he said.

The concept of introducing privatization to the district – which is seeking bids from companies for transportation and custodial services – also figured into the budget. The district is also considering privatizing food service, but has not sent out a request for bids.

If it came to pass, privatization could place more jobs in limbo, said Dan Chisolm, the chief steward of the Teamsters Local 214. 

“Here we are three years after we made concessions, and there’s talk of privatization,” he said at the Tuesday night meeting. “There are a lot of people who are concerned about their jobs.”

The district recently released requests for proposals for transportation services and custodial services. This district had considered privatization three years ago as part of wage re-opener, but decided against it after the district was able to secure concessions from Local 214 members.

The union’s contract for 2008-2011 expires on June 30. The union represents 150 employees, including maintenance, which so far has not been bid out.

According to the transportation request, the district asked for bids for a three-year contract. The proposal request for custodial services was not immediately available.

Other districts, like and have both issued similar requests, which drew protests of various kinds.

Budget highlights

The district lost about $791 per student for 2011-12, including the $470 per-pupil cut in Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed budget.  The budget approved Tuesday contained $4,857,395 in reductions. Some of the big-ticket reductions include:

  • Teacher layoffs - $3,405,000
  • Contracted support services that would be put into place under agreements to privatize services - $400,000
  • Administrative reductions as a result of attrition - $125,000
  • Central office and support reductions as a result of layoffs and attrition - $239,660
  • Media paraprofessional layoffs - $210,000
  • Maintenance staff reductions - $100,000
  • Reduce extra duty stipends for activities like lunch duty and bus duty for teachers - $40,000
  • Substitute teacher cost reduction due to classroom reductions - $40,000
  • Reduce  payments made to employees who accepted early buyout incentives - $145,000
  • Changing to a less expensive property/casualty insurance provider - $25,000
  • Elimination of new library book purchases - $17,000
  • Completion of an energy education contract - $90,000
  • Reduce athletic subsidies from the general fund, to be offset by per-student increases in pay-to-play fees - $100,000
  • Use of sinking fund dollars for building repairs instead of general fund dollars -- $250,000

Revenue relief

On the revenue side, the district could collect an additional $100 per-student allocation for meeting four of five “best practice” criteria implemented by Gov. Rick Snyder and the state legislature.  

The five criteria, which Snyder's administration has maintained are necessary to reform the state's schools, include "best practices" such as conslidating services and requiring school districts to fund employee health care, which Northville already does.

Additionally, the district could receive $127 per student to offset retirement costs.

Wadsworth said the district has every reason to believe it will meet the criteria to receive the additional funds but it’s unclear when the dollars would dispersed to school districts by the state. These two potential sources of revenue could provide an estimated $1.6 million, based on an enrollment number of 7,300 students.

Wadsworth said receiving the additional monies from the state, and securing concessions from its bargaining units will increase the chances of call backs for laid off employees. Collective bargaining agreements for two of the district’s unions, the Northville Education Association and the Teamsters Local 214, expire on Aug. 25 and June 30, respectively.

“We’re going to be asking for concessions from all of our employees,” Wadsworth said.

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