Budget and millage rates approved, consolidated busing considered

The Ann Arbor Board of Education adopted the district’s 2010-11 budget on June 9 for the fiscal year starting July 1. The $183 million package trims $20 million in operating expenses.

Although the budget includes staff cuts, it is unclear how many employees will be called back in the fall. Much depends on how many staff members choose to retire before the start of the school year.. Also an unknown factor is how much in per-pupil funding the state Legislature will approve for 2010-11; that represents the bulk of the district’s funding.

The district reached a tentative agreement with teachers on June 14 (see related story); details of this are expected to be made public when the contract is ratified. A total of 191 teachers have received layoff notices.

A new state law offers retiring school employees an incentive; according to information presented to the board, the district is expecting about 90 employees to retire and another 30 to file for retirement extensions.

Also impacting the budget will be revenues anticipated from Schools of Choice, which allows students from other Washtenaw County districts to attend school in selected grades in Ann Arbor. The district received 94 applications for openings and Superintendent Todd Roberts told the board the district is inquiring into reopening a second window for applications in August to fill additional openings.

Millage rates approved

School district millage rates for 2010-11, which are not subject to a Headlee rollback, were also approved on Wednesday night. A mill is the amount charged to property owners for every $1,000 of assessed property value. School property taxes are paid to the state and redistributed to public school districts based on the school aid formula on a per-pupil basis.

The millage rate levied on homestead property in the Ann Arbor district will be 4.5344 mills, a 0.1200 increase from the prior year. Non-homestead millage will be restored to 18 mills from 17.9694 in the current year. Debt service from the bond projects is set at 2.1226 mills and the Sinking Fund at 1 mill.

District interested in consolidated busing

In addition to budget approval on June 9, the school board approved a resolution of interest for a consolidated countywide transportation plan through the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

Five districts have shown an interest in the plan including Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Willow Run, Whitmore Lake and Lincoln Consolidated, representing half of the county’s 10 public school districts. Ann Arbor is the largest district. The next step would be to sign an agreement with the WISD.

Under the terms of plan, districts would lay off transportation employees who could then apply for jobs at the WISD. The consolidated plan would save money by optimizing bus routes and consolidating office and dispatch services, WIDS officials have said.

The consolidated program would begin this fall. Officials have said routes would remain mostly the same for general education students but would change for special education students.

Ann Arbor school officials received preliminary information in April comparing privatizing transportation services versus participating in a countywide transportation consolidation plan and heard further information at a special meeting in June. The district has sought and obtained bids for privatizing bus service.

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