School funds must be kept separate

by MICHAEL S. SHIBLER, Ph.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

As we all know, the state of Michigan’s economy is in crisis mode. Unemployment is over 11 percent, and sales from a variety of businesses are down. Both of these factors have resulted in a serious decline in revenues used to fund the state’s public schools.

In late February, Governor Granholm declared that Michigan schools would receive $59 less per student in 2009-10 than they received in 2008-09. Then, in early March, the Governor announced that because of potential revenues from the Federal Stimulus Package, it is possible that the best case scenario for school funding might be a freeze rather than a reduction.

Although a funding freeze is our best case scenario, our costs continue to rise, just as in your home or business, despite active efforts to contain them. In anticipation of a freeze in state funding, we project we will need to reduce our costs by $2.5 million in order to balance the 2009-10 budget. This number would be higher in the event of a funding reduction. We are committed to doing our very best to keep most of these reductions away from the classroom, but with 85 percent of our budget delegated to staffing, that will be difficult.

For the past several months, we have been giving presentations to staff and parent organizations regarding Michigan’s serious economic crisis and its impact on all public schools. We have also reported to these groups that, prior to July 1, it will be necessary for the Board of Education and administration to reduce our costs by $2.5 million. We are currently identifying where those reductions will occur, and I will notify you through our webpage www.rockfordschools.org and the district newsletter The Rampage once the Board of Education has approved them.

A frequently asked question during our public budget presentations involved using the revenues from the $45 million bond issue passed by voters last May to ease the funding shortfall from the state of Michigan. There is only one answer to this question:  IT IS ILLEGAL TO CO-MINGLE FUNDS, such as revenues from the bond issue and general day-to-day operating funds. So, it is important to understand when you see new classrooms added to six of our eight elementary schools, the addition of 20 new community recreation and athletic fields, and upgrades in instructional technology at all of our schools in the near future, that these projects are funded through the May 2008 bond fund. Those funds are designated to these capital projects and cannot legally be used for operations. The good news is that our students and community will enjoy the benefits of the May 2008 bond issue for years to come, despite the current operational funding problem.

As always, please feel comfortable to contact me with your concerns or questions at mshibler@rockford.k12.mi.us or (616) 863-6557.

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