Superintendent lays out plan for 2010-11 budget year

Dear Ann Arbor Public Schools Staff and Families:

On Wednesday evening, March 24, our administrative team brought the first briefing of a proposed budget plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year that begins July 1 to the Board of Education. We are publishing details about this proposal here for our parents and community to review as well.

At Thurston Elementary School, fifth-graders are responsible for running a student credit union branch, thanks to a community partnership with the MidWest Financial Credit Union. Here, students work as a team on promotional materials.

This proposed budget will be reviewed and considered by board members who must approve a balanced budget for our school district by the end of June.

As you know, these are difficult and uncertain financial times for The Ann Arbor Public Schools as well as other districts throughout Michigan. Of 300 school districts responding in a recent “Survey of Pain” by the Michigan School Business Officials:
• 86 percent of districts expect teacher and staff layoffs in 2010-11.
• 85 percent expect class sizes will continue to grow.
• 21 percent expect to close at least one school building in the coming year.

In our proposed document, we have taken into account not only changes in state funding that have already occurred in the current fiscal year (a loss of $398 per pupil), but the projected loss in per-pupil funding (a loss of $265 per pupil) along with increased salary, retirement and health care costs for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Based on projections for 2010-11, we face an almost $20 million budget deficit. Projections for next year are dependent upon action taken at the state level, which could include changes in the state sales tax structure and rate, reforms to the state-run retirement system for school employees and the level of per-pupil funding which is the primary source of operational money for our school district.

Haisley Elementary students work on a World Language lesson in the school's media center.

We have also considered feedback and comments from people who attended the budget forums in the district in early 2010. I thank you for your participation and for being part of this process to help guide our district forward.

In developing our budget plan for 2010-11, we have focused on the following guiding principles and considerations:
• Aligning with the goals in the district’s strategic plan.
• Maintaining a focus on academic excellence and improving student achievement.
• Maintaining a variety of educational options and learning opportunities for students.
• Considering how to provide services and programs differently while reducing costs.
• Identifying new revenue options as well as cost savings.

To adhere to the principles and considerations identified above, our budget planning first targets cost savings in the non-instructional and administrative functions of the school district which account for approximately $35 million, or 17 percent of the school district’s total operating budget.

To reduce costs in these areas, we have looked at options to provide services differently, lower salary and benefit costs and to consolidate and share services with other school districts and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Our proposed plan represents an 18 percent reduction of costs in these functions.

The second area our budget planning targets is opportunities to increase revenue. The proposed budget plan identifies additional revenues of approximately $1.6 million.

Finally, our proposed budget plan includes cost savings in instruction. The basic instruction, pupil support and instructional support functions of our budget represent approximately $157 million, or 86 percent of the school district’s operating budget. To reduce costs in these areas, our goal has been not to eliminate programs for students, but to look at how to restructure some programs. We have also looked to lower salary and benefit costs for employees in these areas. Reductions in these areas include eliminating staff positions, however, it has been our goal to try and limit these reductions so that core academic programs and academic support programs for students are impacted as little as possible.

Our proposed plan represents 5.5 percent reduction of costs in these functions. An overview of the proposed budget plan is available. (View overview | download detailed PDF)

Two public meetings have been scheduled where we will discuss these plans with members of the community. We encourage you to come to one of these meetings to further participate in the process. Both will begin at 6:30 p.m.:
• Monday, April 12 at Pioneer High School Little Theater, 601 W. Stadium Blvd.
• Tuesday, April 13 at Huron High School Little Theater, 2727 Fuller.

Based on budget planning for the 2010-11 school year, the Board of Education will adopt a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. However, without increased revenues for school districts and cost containment reforms, our school district and districts throughout the state will continue to face difficult budget challenges for 2011-12 and beyond.

Anticipating continued challenges ahead, we will be engaging the Strategic Planning Team as well as the Action Teams this spring. Staff, students, parents and community members are invited to participate.

Skyline High School students collaborate on a physics lesson, learning to work with lasers.

We will examine educational programming and facility use at the elementary, middle and high school levels as well as student intervention and support services programming.

The goal of these teams will be to provide recommendations regarding both short- and long-term educational programming needs. This will allow our school district to continue providing outstanding educational opportunities for students based on the district’s funding and enrollment projections for the next five years.

The Strategic Planning Team will meet at the end of April to review and update the Action Teams which will start meeting in May.

The goal is to bring a recommendation to the Board of Education in November 2010.

If you are interested in the Strategic Planning Process please e-mail Liz Margolis or call her at 734-994-2236. More information on the Strategic Plan can be found online at:

These are challenging times for our school district, community and state. It is my goal to continue working collaboratively with district staff, parents and our community to address the challenges we face in a thoughtful and considerate manner.

Thank you for the work you do and the support you provide for the students in our school district.


Todd Roberts, Superintendent
The Ann Arbor Public Schools
2555 S. State St., Ann Arbor
Phone: 734-994-2230

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