Ann Arbor Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Marios Demetriou presented the Board of Education with a proposed 2015-16 budget plan last night. The plan calls for $206.75 million in expenditures and $207 million in revenue.
The budget is built on the assumption of no additional funding in state aid. It includes the cost of expanding programs designed to attract additional students, adding 17 teaching positions, and maintaining competitive pay for teachers.
School Board President Deb Mexicotte says the proposal is a sign the district has turned a corner. “It is certainly a far cry from some of the budgets that we’ve had to work on in the past where we’ve had 10, 15, 18 million dollars to try to find in the budget, I think that the general feeling is that it’s very positive, but cautious,” Mexicotte says.
The cost for health benefits is projected to increase by slightly over $1 million. Utilities, transportation, and re-opening the middle school pools will add another $1 million to the budget. Adding 17 teachers for seventh grade at STEAM, International Baccalaureate Coordinators, and Project Lead the Way will increase expenditures by $1.4 million.
These costs are offset by expected savings of $1.2 million from 35 teachers retiring and their replacements not earning as much. $1.1 million dollars will be raised by the sale of the Roberto Clemente building.
The largest expected increase in revenue comes from bringing more students to Ann Arbor schools. Adding 250 new students will provide an additional $1.875 million in state aid. Superintendent Jeanice Swift says with 98 new students that live in the district, and 567 out-of-district school of choice applications submitted the district should meet or exceed the targeted enrollment increase. “We feel very optimistic about that number being higher this year, and yet always cautiously optimistic and we’ll be reaching out to folks throughout the summer to make sure they’re settled into the school that they choose and they’re feeling connected to Ann Arbor Public Schools,” Swift says.
The district has received more school of choice applications this year, than at the same time last year. Swift expects another schools of choice application window will take place before next school year kicks off. “We anticipate opening one for the last week in July and the beginning of August,” she says.
While board members are cautiously optimistic about the budget, they still have concerns about the state’s commitment to education. Trustee Donna Lasinksi says flat state aid revenues amount to a decrease when considering inflationary increases in items such as utilities and health care. She says only the one-time revenue from the sale of Roberto Clemente prevents the district from needing to dip into reserves to balance the budget.
The board will continue budget discussions May 27 when they hold their first briefing. The public hearing on the budget also takes place at the May 27 meeting. A final vote on the budget is expected June 10.