By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain School District has taken action to reduce 8.66 teachers and two classroom aides because of declining enrollments.
These were decisions that needed to be made prior to the adoption of a 2013-14 budget by June 30.
Like other districts in the state, Iron Mountain is continuing to experience a trend of declining enrollments. With graduating 97 seniors this year and only expecting kindergarten classes in the 50s, a loss of revenue is hitting the district hard next year - to the tune of $1.09 million.
Enrollments have been in a declining state for the past 10 years, said Supt. Tom Jayne, especially during the past two years and looking into the upcoming year. During this three year span, the district is anticipating losing a total of 170 students.
Using the current state aid figure of $7,198 per student, that equates to a loss of $1.2 million in revenue.
"As a result of that, we've used up our fund equity - $1 million the first year and $600,000 the second year to stave off these reductions as long as we could. But we saw the writing on the wall last year and if everything remained the same, we were going to have to make reductions of $1.1 million. That came true and we had to take action during a special board meeting to layoff staff," said Jayne.
In the area of teaching staff, $665,517 was cut out the budget. This was the reduction/layoff of 8.66 teachers, not replacing a teacher who is retiring, moving Donny Bianco back into the classroom full time from his part-time administration position as dean of students, eight schedule B assignments for clubs not renewed, and using less teacher substitutes.
In the administration, hiring a new administrative assistant meant a savings of $10,500. The area of support staff was also reduced by $105,048, with action to layoff/not replace four aides including the AmeriCorps worker, reducing the custodial staff by two through retirements and a reduction in summer help.
Other budget cuts were made to reduce some of the line items by 15 percent, with less purchases, maintenance and Michigan Virtual High School costs as well as cuts in technology for a total of $134,239.
All these actions reduced by budget by $915,304, with another $175,160 in cuts left yet to be made.
The 2013-14 proposed budget revenues totaled $7,869,366 with expenditures prior to reductions of $9,059,830 leaving a deficit of $1,090,464 and $50,000 in the fund equity.
The enrollment for the upcoming year is projected to be a total of 941 students - a loss of 58 students from the current school year.
But the biggest portion of the budget - 85-90 percent - is personnel costs. So that is why the biggest expense cut was in the area of staff. Despite these hard decisions, Jayne said that not one program was cut in the school district.
The greatest staff reductions for the 2013-14 school year were in the elementary school, which has had three sections of classes in grades 1-6 and class sizes ranging from 21-26.
The breakdown for the upcoming year will be one section of early kindergarten with 17 students; two sections of kindergarten with 25 in each class; two sections of first grade totaling 30 and 31; two sections of second grade with 30 in each class; two sections of third grade at 34 and 33; three sections of fourth grade with classes of 25, 25, and 26; two sections of fifth grade with 34 students in each class; and two sections of sixth grade at 34 and 33 students in a class.
The middle and high school class sizes are remaining the same for the 2013-14 school year.
"The biggest problem is graduating 97 students and having 50 kindergartners coming in with 17 in early kindergarten. But we are still offering the same programs we had this year - no program was cut," Jayne said.
He added that the reason for announcing the layoffs at this time is that by law the district cannot adopt a deficit budget. The budget has to officially be adopted by June 30.
"If a district adopts a deficit budget, they have to report to the state on a monthly basis to show how they are working to reduce the deficit. If the deficit isn't eliminated in three years, the state puts an emergency manager in charge of the school district. As hard as it has been to do, the board's philosophy is to bring a balanced budget to adopt," Jayne added.
With the passing of $9.5 million bond proposal in February, there have been some questions concerning the staff reductions.
"We are so thankful for the support of the voters in passing the bond, which does help our budget expenses. Unfortunately none of that money can be used to pay teacher-staff salaries," Jayne explained.
The district, through the bond, will be saving money next year with the movement of grades 4-6 to East Elementary School because the needed renovation expenses don't have to come out of the general budget. Without the bond monies, the district would have had to come up with the funds to make these purchases and repairs - well over $300,000 in the next couple of years.
"We would have had to find it in the budget somewhere to do this and it would have probably led to program cuts. The bond is saving us from having to do that," Jayne said.
Who has been laid off has also been questioned due to the fact that some teachers with 10 years of experience were affected by this action, he added. Layoffs were made first by teachers who were not tenured in the district and then determined by the evaluations that are conducted twice a year.
These evaluations determine whether a teacher falls into the category of highly effective, effective, minimally effective or not effective.
"The majority of the teachers retained were highly effective or had more seniority. We have to follow state and federal laws, the local union contract, as well as board policies when making these decisions - it isn't arbitrary. And all things considered, the more senior person on staff stays. It's just unfortunate that the layoffs went so deep," he said.
Jayne added that the school board and administration regret the layoffs.
"It is not a reflection of any employee's work, but due to a loss of revenue from declining enrollments and the evaluation system in place in the districts. It's no one's fault - we have a superior staff," Jayne said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.