Stories indexed with the term ‘school budgets’

AAPS Board Opposes State Aid Transfer

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (March 30, 2011): Wednesday’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board began by welcoming incoming superintendent Patricia Green to the district. Trustees selected Green, who’s been superintendent of schools at North Allegheny School District in Pennsylvania, as the next AAPS superintendent at their March 5 special meeting.

Patricia Green

Patricia Green, incoming superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, spoke during the AAPS board's March 30 meeting. She starts her job in July. (Photo by the writer.)

Green was in town for a brief visit to meet with members of the administration and will start her tenure here in July. Noting that she hopes to make one more visit before then, Green stated her commitment to connecting with the district and encouraging members of the community to reach out.

Wednesday’s meeting was highlighted by talk of how to deal with looming budget issues. The board discussed – then unanimously approved – a resolution opposing the transfer of some state School Aid Fund money, which has traditionally financed K-12 schools, to fund higher education instead. Trustee Andy Thomas called the proposed transfer “a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul scenario, done in a very underhanded manner.”

Budget issues were also a key part of a report to the board by Brit Satchwell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, the teacher’s union. He said the union’s efforts are focused on educating the public about sacrifices the district would have to make to accommodate proposed cuts, keeping in mind concessions that have already been made.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board voted to expand the district’s schools of choice program. They got an update about a partnership with the University of Michigan involving Mitchell Elementary and Scarlett Middle schools, and heard a report on efforts to reduce energy costs throughout the district.

Four people spoke during the time set aside for public commentary. Speakers expressed concern over the district’s scheduling of events in conflict with religious holidays, and objected to a proposed expansion of the parking lot at Haisley Elementary School. [Full Story]

WCC President Repays $4,000 Dinner Tab

Washtenaw Community College President Larry Whitworth says he is taking full responsibility for $4,000 spent by the college on a dinner for its board of trustees annual retreat in early March. At a press briefing earlier today at his office on the WCC campus, Whitworth said he planned the retreat and therefore he – not the WCC board members – should take the blame for the expense. It has become an issue in trustee David Rutledge’s bid for the 54th District state House seat.

As first reported by The Chronicle, the board of trustees two-day retreat at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in Detroit cost a total of $9,910.70, including dinner at the hotel’s 24grille restaurant and $5,887.43 in hotel charges. WCC’s paper The Washtenaw Voice later reported that the dinner bill included $573 worth of wine.

Whitworth said the cost of the meal was higher than anticipated due to the fact that he missed a detail on the menu that 24grille faxed him before the retreat. Specifically, he didn’t read the fine print stating that the restaurant would charge $100 per person for the meal, not including tax and gratuity. Whitworth said he expected to pay about $2,000 and was shocked when he saw the bill. [Full Story]

New Trustee, AAPS Board Weigh Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 12, 2010): Last month, Andy Thomas made a report to the board as a member of the Parent Teacher Organization Council. Now, the PTOC will make those reports to a board that includes Thomas.

Andy Thomas AAPS school board member

Andy Thomas, being sworn-in as the newest trustee of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education at its May 12 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Thomas replaces long-time member Randy Friedman, who resigned in April.  The selection of Thomas to the board during last Wednesday’s meeting marks the third change in board membership in the past six months. Thomas’ current term will end at the end of the year, and he – along with trustees Simone Lightfoot, Christine Stead, Deb Mexicotte, and Susan Baskett – will need to be re-elected in November to remain on the board.

Also at the meeting, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students was addressed from multiple perspectives. The proposed Washtenaw Intermediate School District budget was reviewed, and the board was briefed on the district’s finances, sinking fund summer projects, policy updates, and human resources. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Satellite Campus for WCC?

The Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees met for a two-day retreat at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit earlier this month, where they discussed the possibility of opening a satellite campus in Ann Arbor – possibly in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library.

The retreat on March 5-6 covered a range of other topics, from the college’s projected drop in revenue and possible tuition increases to its shifting student demographics and a raft of facility renovations.

The Chronicle attended the first day of the retreat – the second day was held in closed session. The location – including an overnight stay at what the Book Cadillac website describes as an historic, luxury hotel – was intended to help focus trustees’ attention, according to board chair Stephen Gill. The cost of the retreat came to $9,910.70. [Full Story]

AAPS Issues RFPs for Privatization

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Jan. 20, 2010): Wednesday’s meeting of the AAPS board of education was a study in contrasts.

Demonstrating against privitization

Outside the Jan. 20 school board meeting, one of four demonstrators against privatization of certain school services. (Photo by the writer.)

On one hand, it was an evening of accolades and celebrations.  The board heard recommendations to pay tribute to the work of two longtime AAPS staff members by naming facilities in their honor, community participation in budget planning was lauded, and the students from this year’s Hikone Exchange Program reported on their trip to Ann Arbor’s sister city of Hikone, Japan.

At the same time, concerns about possible privatization of custodial, maintenance, and transportation services dominated the meeting’s public commentary. And when the same presentation that was made to recent public budget forums was repeated for the board, looming school budget cuts again came to the fore. Requests for proposals (RFPs) for outsourcing that are a part of those cuts were also briefly discussed. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Schools Seek Input on Budget

A group of people sitting around a table

One of the tables at the Jan. 7 Ann Arbor Public Schools budget forum, where participants discussed options for cutting expenses and raising revenues. (Photos by the writer.)

Todd Roberts, superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, didn’t have much good news to deliver at Thursday’s budget forum, the first of four that the district is holding this month. Heavily reliant on declining state funding, AAPS faces as much as a $20.9 million deficit by fiscal 2010-11.

And after voters rejected a countywide schools millage in November that would have brought some financial relief, school officials are faced with difficult decisions as they work to close the funding gap between revenues and expenses.

Despite the season’s first significant snowfall, more than 100 people attended the Jan. 7 forum at Huron High School’s cafeteria, a gathering that included parents, teachers, administrative staff, some school board members, students and others in the community. Leaders of groups that supported the November schools millage proposal, as well as those who successfully led efforts to defeat it, also attended the meeting.

Roberts told the crowd that it’s unlikely the state will see a turnaround anytime soon, and their biggest hope is that revenues for schools at least remain flat. “But that’s certainly not a foregone conclusion,” he added. [Full Story]

New State Cuts Add to School Crisis

Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s decision on Monday to make additional cuts in state funding to some of Michigan’s school districts means an additional $3.7 million loss to the Ann Arbor Public Schools in its current fiscal year, which began July 1.

In addition to $165 per-pupil cuts that were already anticipated, Granholm vetoed a portion of a bill that specified school-aid payments to be made to the state’s “hold harmless” districts, one of which is AAPS. She vetoed that item in a comprehensive K-12 school-aid bill that she signed on Monday. The new cuts of $233 per pupil will take effect unless the state legislature overrides her veto.

AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts told The Chronicle this morning that combined with the previous $165 per-pupil cuts, the Ann Arbor district now must deal with a $6.4 million loss in funding for the current fiscal year. They’ll likely need to tap their $28 million fund equity – the equivalent of a district’s savings account – as well as make cuts to services, trying to identify those that will be the least disruptive to the schools, he said.

Roberts said that Monday’s action at the state level makes it even clearer for the need to take more local control of school funding – referring to a proposed countywide millage that’s on the Nov. 3 ballot. [See Chronicle coverage: "Does It Take a Millage?"] “If we’re going to rely on [the state], then shame on us,” he said. [Full Story]

Does It Take a Millage?

Ann Arbor tax document

An Ann Arbor summer tax bill, showing some of the assessments for Ann Arbor schools. For Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), the millage rates reflect half the amount collected annually.

Among Michigan’s public educators, the 2010-11 fiscal year is being called “The Cliff.” Based on a grim downward trajectory of funding from the state, decreasing revenues from local property taxes and expenses like health care continuing to climb, that’s the year many districts are expected to plummet over the edge into the red.

Robert Allen, deputy superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, described this scenario at a sparsely attended forum last Thursday at Huron High School, where he and superintendent Todd Roberts made a pitch for voters to support a proposed countywide millage on the Nov. 3 ballot. They didn’t claim that AAPS would be among those districts falling off the cliff, but they did say their district faces a $15 million deficit that year. Without new revenue from the millage, they contend that the district would need to make dramatic cuts, and that those cuts would almost certainly affect students in the classroom. Michigan’s financial crisis is hitting hard, they say.

“As the state goes, so goes our funding,” Allen told the group on Thursday.

The state isn’t going so well.

But opponents argue that school districts haven’t done enough to cut costs, and that taxpayers can’t absorb the added burden of another millage. Beyond that, people on both sides say there’s an urgent need to reform the way schools are funded in Michigan, regardless of the success or failure of the Nov. 3 millage vote.

This Chronicle report looks at how Michigan funds K-12 public schools, why local school districts say they need a special enhancement millage and why critics say they don’t, and what that proposed millage would entail. Ann Arbor Public Schools is the largest of Washtenaw County’s 10 school districts, and would receive over a third of the $30 million collected from the millage annually – we’ll focus our coverage on that district. [Full Story]