District gathering ideas, moving ahead on proposed budget

Student opinion: The Price of a Free Education.
Budget meetings, survey offer chance for public input.
Click here for the full presentation and list of proposed budget cuts and click on “budget forums presentation” to download.
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From AAPSNews Service

Tuesday evening will be the last of four scheduled budget sessions by The Ann Arbor Public Schools, designed to offer some budget-cutting and revenue ideas as well as gather feedback and more ideas from the general public.

The district is facing a budget shortfall estimated at $21 million heading into the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

Ann Arbor Deputy Superintendent for Operations Robert Allen answers questions at a table during one of the recent budget meetings.
Ann Arbor Deputy Superintendent for Operations Robert Allen answers questions at a table during one of the recent budget meetings.

The Jan. 19 meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at Pioneer High School, 601 W. Stadium Blvd., at the corner of Main Street. The session is expected to run about two hours and will include a presentation by school leaders, with attendees breaking into discussion groups to talk about the proposals and make other suggestions. The three other meetings have drawn dozens of interested parties to participate.

A survey is also on the school district’s Web page asking for public feedback and suggestions. Visit a2schools.org and find the survey in the budget box on the right or click here. School officials ask that those interested in offering feedback do it by the Jan. 19 meeting or shortly thereafter to ensure all comments and ideas can be considered.

According to Director of Communications Liz Margolis, the district has begun the process of reviewing all of the public comments made at the meetings and comments on survey forms – online and from the meetings. “We will report out information from the meetings and surveys in February,” she said.

Officials also will use the information as they work to prepare a proposed 2010-11 fiscal budget. Superintendent Todd Roberts said he plans to present a proposed budget to the Ann Arbor Board of Education in March.

According to presentations made this month, school officials are looking at staff pay reductions based on a negotiated agreement, eliminating some teaching and administrative posts, as well as looking at alternative approaches to things such as media center services. Privatizing transportation and custodial operations, consolidating busing operations with other Washtenaw school districts, making changes with alternative high school programs at Stone School and Roberto Clemente Center and charging participation fees for athletics are also on the table as options, officials have said.

Also discussed is the idea of offering more schools of choice seats and promoting the district’s high school Options Magnet as a way to draw more students and revenue to the district.

Proposed changes could add up to more than $17 million in cuts or new revenue for the 2010-11 school year, according to numbers discussed by Roberts and Deputy Superintendent for Operations Robert Allen.

The district was forced to consider budget adjustments of $2.6 million midyear after cuts were made at the state level. Allen said if no changes are made, the $22 million in the district’s fund equity – kept on hand for handling cash flow and other contingencies – would be exhausted by the end of next year. “But we’ve made cuts over the last four or five years and we certainly intend to continue to do that,” Allen added.

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