Saline Schools Budget Looks Rosier, Board Hears Schools of Choice Plan


The Saline Board of Education approved amendments to the budget at last Tuesday’s meeting,

The amended budget calls for $75 million in revenue - about $1.5 million less than budgeted. Fortunately for the district, costs are down even more. The original budget called for $78.3 million in costs. That’s down to a little less than $75.8 million - downtown $2.8 million. The $1.7 million deficit has been shaved to $711,000.

As a result, the projected fund balance is expected to fall from $15.6M to $14.9M.

The board, under Assistant Superintendent of Finance Miranda Owsley, traditionally budgets conservatively.

Over the previous four years, the district’s rainy day fund has ballooned from $2.9 Million to $15.6M.

Schools of Choice

Superintendent Steve Laatsch presented information about his schools of choice plan. Laatsch’s plan would accept 50 or more out-of-district students to the district. The district receives a lion’s share of its operational funding from the state on a per-pupil basis. So as families get smaller, leave Michigan and opt for private schools, students who come to Saline through schools of choice help the district maintain programs.

There continues to be some discord about what’s the right level.

Trustee Tim Austin, who was on the board when the district capped schools of choice at 10 percent of the student body, said Laatsch’s proposed plan brings too many schools of choice students to the district. He noted that bringing in a minimum 50 schools of choice students, while graduating just 36, will raise the percentage of schools of choice students.

“That will raise 10.5 or 10.6 to closer to 11 percent. It seems like that’s going the wrong direction,” Austin said.

The district is aiming to bring at least 35 out-of-district kids to kindergarten or the Young 5s classes.

Laatsch said he wanted to try to bolster the numbers at the youngest grade levels - but that if the board wanted to recommend different numbers, the board could do that.

“But I’m recommending this to be the range we take,” Laatsch said.

Trustee Brad Gerbe said he supported Laatsch’s plan. He said the finance team reviewed the numbers. And he supported the plan to bring in the youngster learners from an educational stand point.

“I believe in the quality of the staff. If we are obtaining students at four and five years old, those are individuals who are going with our programs with our staff members and our targetted interventions. I believe in them,” Gerbe said.

Gerbe said there are only two ways to generate revenue - the per--pupil funding set by the state and student count.

“So if we want to run high-level programs and not have to make decisions about considering semesters instead of trimesters, or cutting a program. If we are at 11 percent instead of 10 percent but it improves our programming, then I support taking this number of students,” Gerbe said.

Gerbe said he trusted Laatch’s plan and to reduce overall staffing by attrition.

Trustee Susan Estep read the police which revamped in October: The Superintendent, when considering School of Choice enrollment, will strive to enroll out-of-district students at approximately ten percent (10%) of the total student body.

“If we get to 11 percent, that’s approximate to me,” Estep wrote.

The board is expected to vote on the schools of choice plan at the March 12 meeting.

Bargaining Team

The board appointed six people to the district’s bargaining team for the SEA 2024 collective bargaining. The team includes Interim Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Carol Baaki Diglo, Assistant Superintendent of Finance Miranda Owsley, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Kara Davis, Executive Director of Operations, Rex Clary, Harvest Principal Emily Sickler and Salin High School Principal Theresa Stager.

Bench Decision Delayed

The motion to accept two benches from the Hot Rods Motorcycle Awareness & Suicide Prevention Foundation was postponed. The board may seek the input of the district’s wellness committee. The group, motorcyclists dedicated to preventing suicide, offered to give two benches worth $2,000 for installation somewhere on Saline Area Schools property. The benches would include a number to a suicide prevention hotline.

Hornets Recognized

Superintendent Laatsch recognized the Saline High School volleyball team and the SHS Today/Hornet Nations video teams, led by teacher Nate Bush.

Players Open The Meeting

The meeting opened with a brief performance by members of the Saline High School Drama Club, which was promoting its upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast, playing March 15-17 at Saline High School.

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