Without knowing how the state will fund schools and unsure of federal bailout money, the Saline Area Schools Board of Education adopted a "placeholder" budget for the 2020-21 school year Tuesday.
The budget, discussed at length during a special meeting last Thursday, was passed unanimously and with little comment Tuesday.
The board also adopted a final budget for 2019-20, showing a $337,000 surplus, giving the district a $3,224,000 fund balance to start the year. The surplus represents a swing of more than $500,000 from the amended budget approved in November.
To calculate the 2020-21 budget, the district "rolled forward" with existing data. The majority of school funding comes from the State of Michigan on a per-pupil basis. The district assumed the state will continue funding school districts at current levels. The district also projected enrollment based on the spring student count.
Using the "roll forward" numbers, the district is budgeting for a $1,168,087 deficit next year.
That's the starting point. It likely gets worse once officials are able to plug-in real data.
Officials expect the state, facing a $2.4 billion shortfall over the next two years due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns, will reduce the per-pupil funding to school districts. It's also possible the district could face some enrollment decline due to coronavirus fears.
School officials have speculated cuts in state funding could be anywhere from $250-600 per student - or $1.3 million to $3.1 million in lost revenue. That's on top of the $1.2 million deficit in the "roll forward" budget.
Superintendent Scot Graden said the district would fill that hole using the district's relatively small fund balance, cuts and concessions from staff. District officials will meet with union officials July 7.
"The budget we are proposing tonight is a placeholder budget. I don't want anyone to think we're adopting this budget because we feel like it's reality. It's a moving picture. We want time in July to plan," Graden said.
"It's definitely a start point for us to work from," Board President Heidi Pfannes said.
Graden told the board the budget was "wise and prudent" strategy to manage this year's unique situation. Graden and the administrative team are working through many scenarios.
"It's incumbent upon us as an administrative team to continue to evaluate and work out a variety of solutions to what will be a negative budget scenario once we get further on in this process," Graden told the board.
Graden hopes to have a clearer picture defined by meeting in early August.
Michigan Republicans proposed a return-to-school plan that uses $1.3 billion in federal funding to bail out schools, according to Bridge Magazine. The proposal includes a one-time $800 per-pupil allowance for safety precautions and remote learning investment.
The plan also includes:
- $500 in hazard pay for teachers.
- $80 million to intermediate school districts to assist in coordinating distance learning plans and safety measures.
- Redefining "attendance" to mean "engaged in instruction" instead of "physically present."
- Utilizing benchmark assessments so teachers and parents can track students' progress and ensure they are keeping up.
- Requiring school districts to work with local health departments to establish safety requirements for extracurricular activities and sports.
Trustee Jennifer Steben encouraged citizens to write federal legislators and ask districts be given the flexibility in its use of federal funds.
The school district finished the 19-20 year with $63,377,659 in revenue and and $63,039, 799 in expenses.
This year's budget does see a reduction in revenue to $62,645,106 - mostly due to a drop in funding from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. At the same time, due to benefits and steps in the contract, expenses rise to $63,814,193.