GP School Board Implements Budget Strategy
In a measure to prepare for the upcoming 2012/13 budget discussions, the Grosse Pointe Public School Board passed a measure Monday to help gain feedback from unionized employees and administration well in advance of the passage deadline.
In preparation for the Grosse Pointe Public School budget discussions that will begin soon related to the 2012/13 fiscal year, the board passed a resolution introducted by board treasurer Brendan Walsh.
The idea behind the resolution is to have the proposed budget and all related information before the board months before the state's budget passage deadline in order to give the board sufficient time to make decisions and strategize on how to make the budget.
As outlined in the resolution, members of the various unions representing employees of the district must submit written solutions to Superintendent Tom Harwood by March 30. The solutions should include ideas of money-saving measures staff believe could be helpful without harming the level of education currently being given to students.
Walsh introduced the resolution to board members earlier this month via email, explaining that as the district's financial position changes, so does the process. He encouraged discussion about the resolution before the board was to vote on it Monday night to ensure any questions were answered and wishes were met.
The board already has a policy in place that encourages conversation and feedback to be shared between board members and administration to identify goals, areas to aim for savings or areas to avoid savings and more, information that Walsh included in his email and explained Monday.
Additionally, the resolution requires that the administration have a proposed budget with all related information, including projected class sizes, budget model, fiscal projections and more, by the end of April.
The new fiscal year begins July 1, meaning the deadlines in the resolution give the board two full months to evaluate and make changes to the proposed budget to balance it.
Board member Joan Dindoffer made one amendment to the resolution. She requested that the administration give the board a month-by-month projection of fund equity balance for the 2012/13 fiscal year in all of the information they intend to provide at the end of April.
She said after the meeting the amendment will help in the planning process because it will allow the board members to guage just how low the fund equity could get by the time the union contracts kick into effect.
The unions agreed in a somewhat landmark contract a few years ago to ensure the fund equity of the district remains at 10 percent, which is roughly $10 million. If the fund equity dips below this point, the union employees will need to make concessions to pump it back up to that level.
The contract is a big factor in developing the 2012/13 fiscal year budget because it is the first time the fund equity is projected to fall below that threshold and part of what spurred Walsh's introduction of the resolution.
The resolution passed with a 6-1 vote Monday. Tom Jakubiec was the only nay-sayer, explaining he opposes it because he believes having such a focus on ways to save will distract employees from continuing to provide the high level of education to students--the district's main purpose.
Walsh addressed Jakubiec's concerns and read a clause that is included in the resolution saying specifically that structure of developing this budget should not impact the delivery or level of education given to students.
Walsh also emphasized that by agreeing to the such a strategy, it does not tie any member to what the budget will be or where the cuts will happen. It simply sets the board up to have time to evaluate where cuts can be best achieved without being rushed to meet the deadline.
Dindoffer's amendment passed unanimously.
During public comment near the end of the meeting, Grosse Pointe Education Association President Renae Beyerlein addressed the board, explaining she hopes the board will consider some cuts the teachers have identified as wasteful spending within the district before making them take further concessions. She also talked about the ill feelings some teachers felt after a meeting late last year in which Walsh outlined the bleak financial state of the district, projections related to the dwindling budget and how it might impact staff.
Walsh addressed Beyerlein's comments, saying that is the exact reason for the resolution. He explained that the board, the administration and the staff really need to work together on the budget development to achieve the best outcome. He also referenced how all of the same parties are "in this together" and decisions being made in Lansing are still eroding public education.
He also said he never intended for his presentation to create ill-feelings among staff and that is precisely why the board developed a formal way for staff to submit money saving ideas as part of the process.