Dr. Swift: ‘We have a plan for navigating and sustaining through these financial difficulties’

Community meetings for 2014-15 budget continue this week

Dr. Swift chats with a Huron High School student after a community budget meeting on March 27 at Scarlett Middle School.
Dr. Swift chats with a Huron High School student after a community budget meeting on March 27 at Scarlett Middle School.

March 31, 2014

By Tara Cavanaugh 

This week AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift is continuing community meetings to discuss the AAPS budget for the 2014-2015 school year.

Dr. Swift will be at Clague Middle School tonight from 6:30-8 p.m. She will also be at Forsythe Middle School Tuesday and at Tappan Middle School Thursday night, both from 6:30-8 p.m.

“We’re coming on this budget tour with a plan for navigating and sustaining through these financial difficulties,” Dr. Swift said at the March 27 community budget meeting at Scarlett Middle School.

On her Listen and Learn tour, Dr. Swift said parents voiced concerns and frustration over the previous years’ budget cuts.

Dr. Swift has pledged no increases in class sizes, no cuts in services to students, no cuts in extracurricular activities, athletics or seventh hour, and no teacher layoffs in the budget for the 2014-2015 year.

Instead, Dr. Swift has created a “value-added” approach in order to attract more students to the Ann Arbor Public Schools. The district is rolling out a new K-8 STEAM school, a Pathways to Success campus, the A2 Virtual+ Academy, more preschool and Young Fives options and more world languages. The district is also opening 750 Schools of Choice seats to students who live outside AAPS boundaries and phasing in a K-12 International Baccalaureate program.

There is a $10.7 million gap between expected expenditures and expected revenues for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, explained AAPS Finance Director Nancy Hoover. Many factors have contributed to the gap:

  • The district had a decrease in enrollment of 200 students for the 2013-2014 school year. This caused a loss of over $1.3 million.
  • Retirement costs have increased: the district is now responsible for nearly 30 percent of retirement costs; for FY 1999/2000, the district was responsible for just 12 percent.
  • Annual health costs have doubled since FY 1999/2000; the district now pays $12,582 per employee.
  • The district’s per-pupil funding from the state has decreased. Current per-pupil funding is back to the level it was in FY 2001/2002.

Hoover also highlighted an overall $1.831 billion disinvestment in K-12 education by the State of Michigan each year. That $1.831 billion annual decrease is due to a reduction in the Michigan business tax, a reduction of General Fund support to the School Aid Fund, and an increase in expenses covered by the School Aid Fund.

The district’s fund balance, which is essentially its savings, has decreased dramatically from over $36 million in FY 2003/2004 to a projected 5.53 million in the second quarter of FY 2013/2014.

The district has cut nearly 300 full-time employees since FY 2009/2010 due to fiscal challenges.

“In AAPS we’re at a crossroads,” Dr. Swift said at the March 27 community budget meeting. “We’ve come back to the table year after year. This time, we really have chosen a different path where we’re headed. That path we’re heading down now is about adding value.

“We’re going to get through this,” Dr. Swift continued. “I’m proud of Ann Arbor. We have something to build from.”

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1 Comment

  1. Interesting direction, but what is the fallback plan if this is unsuccessful? At some point the school district has to realize that the the potential for school closings and re-districting will likely be the only option and these plans need to be in place.

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