Stories indexed with the term ‘state budget’

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]

AAPS Board Gets Briefed on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (March 16, 2011): The highlight of last week’s meeting was a presentation from interim superintendent Robert Allen on the many budget and funding issues the district faces in the coming years.

Allen told board members that the district faces a $15 million shortfall in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That figure assumes the special education millage, on the ballot for May 3, will be renewed. If voters don’t approve the millage renewal, the deficit could grow to nearly $21 million.

During the meeting, board members criticized Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed state budget, which calls for cuts to K-12 education. They cautioned that his focus on business tax cuts would undermine the quality of public education in the state. “I don’t think most people want education ravaged in order to fund a huge business tax cut,” trustee Glenn Nelson said. “We need to shout this story from the rooftops.”

Allen will be giving an expanded report on the budget situation to the public from 6:30-8 p.m. on Monday, March 21 at the Pioneer High School cafeteria annex. The board also discussed setting up a time to meet with state legislators, to discuss their concerns about the state budget proposals.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, board president Deb Mexicotte reported that the district is close to wrapping up contract negotiations with Patricia Green, the board’s choice to become the district’s next superintendent. She hoped to provide additional details soon, including a potential start date. [Full Story]

County Board Gets Update on State Budget

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (March 2, 2011): This year’s update from Lansing – delivered by lobbyist Kirk Profit and his colleagues at Governmental Consultant Services Inc. – brought little positive news to county commissioners.

Kirk Profit, Leah Gunn

Kirk Profit of GCSI – a Lansing governmental consulting firm – talks with commissioner Leah Gunn during a break at the March 2, 2011 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

At his presentation to the board a year ago, Profit foreshadowed that a change in leadership at all levels in Lansing would affect the county. On Wednesday, he outlined more details of that impact, specifically related to the state budget recently proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Ann Arbor Republican who was elected to office last November.

Responding to GCSI’s presentation, commissioners expressed concerns on a range of topics, including legislation giving broader emergency financial management powers to the state, potential changes to collective bargaining, and K-12 education funding. Leah Gunn made the most direct plea, asking Profit to convey a message to legislators: “Just send us money!”

Aside from the state budget update, commissioners dispatched the rest of their agenda with little discussion. Included in their actions was approval of a resolution allowing the United Way of Washtenaw County to secure a necessary state gambling permit for the nonprofit’s March 9 Power of the Purse fundraising event. The permit is needed so that United Way can auction off gift baskets.

The board also approved changes to its annual calendar that eliminated all future administrative briefings from the board’s meeting schedule. The decision to eliminate the administrative briefings – informal meetings that have been held the week prior to the board’s regular meetings, to review the upcoming agenda – was made at their final briefing on Feb. 26. There was no discussion of the issue on Wednesday.

During public commentary, Tom Wieder returned to address the board about per diem payments for commissioners, an issue he originally raised five months ago. He said he couldn’t quite believe that some commissioners still hadn’t repaid the amounts that an independent audit had determined they owed.

The audit showed that nearly all commissioners needed to reimburse the county for some per diems or mileage that they had inappropriately claimed. The amounts ranged from $25 to $14,385 – an amount repaid by former commissioner Mark Ouimet, who was elected to the state House last fall. All but board chair Conan Smith and Barbara Bergman, and former commissioners Jessica Ping and Ken Schwartz have repaid the amounts they owed as determined by the audit. [Full Story]

Lansing View: Concrete Talk With Jeff Irwin

Editor’s note: After 11 years of service on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, Democrat Jeff Irwin was elected by voters of District 53 to serve as their representative in the Michigan House of Representatives. The district covers most of Ann Arbor, plus parts of Scio, Pittsfield and Ann Arbor townships.

Jeff Irwin

Jeff Irwin, representative for District 53 of the Michigan state House of Representatives, met with constituents at Espresso Royale in downtown Ann Arbor last Saturday. (Photos by the writer.)

In each of the first two months of his term, Irwin has held meetings for constituents in local Ann Arbor coffee houses – Cafe Verde and Espresso Royale. On Saturday, Feb. 26, The Chronicle caught up with Irwin after his talk with constituents and spoke with him for about an hour. The conversation included a discussion of Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget overview. [.pdf of budget overview]

In presenting the interview below, The Chronicle’s conversation with Irwin has been reorganized and edited in some places to achieve greater coherence and focus.

Last Saturday, Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-53rd District) entertained questions and concerns from constituents on a variety of topics, including local interest in the future use of the top of the underground parking structure, which is under construction on the city-owned Library Lot between Fifth and Division streets.

Three blocks east from Irwin’s conversation with constituents, a constant parade of concrete mixers on Division Street headed south across Liberty to the east edge of the Library Lot construction site. They dumped their loads into a pump, and through the course of the day, workers poured around 6,300 cubic yards of concrete. Coincidentally, in his subsequent conversation with The Chronicle, Irwin introduced images involving concrete and construction – he was drawing an analogy between teacher contracts and construction contracts.

We’ve chronicled this conversation in a Q&A format, divided into seven sections: (1) a budget bright spot in Medicaid; (2) education as an area of concern; (3) a lack of sufficient, specific goals associated with the budget; (4) labor relations in general; (5) labor relations in Washtenaw County; (6) Irwin’s relationship with former fellow county commissioner Mark Ouimet, a Republican who’s also now a state rep; and (7) a partisan imbalance in committee appointments. [Full Story]

UM Regents Hear from Grad Student Union

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Feb. 17, 2011): About midway through Thursday’s meeting, dozens of graduate students quietly streamed into the boardroom, many of them carrying signs of protest and wearing brightly-colored T-shirts emblazoned with the Graduate Employees’ Organization logo.

University of Michigan graduate student research assistants and instructors at Feb. 17, 2011 regents meeting

University of Michigan graduate student research assistants and members of the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO) crowded the boardroom at Feb. 17, 2011 board of regents meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

They came to support four speakers during public commentary, who were advocating for better benefits and working conditions for graduate student employees. Also speaking during public commentary were five professors from the medical school, urging regents to support a flexible “tenure clock” that would give faculty more time to achieve that professional milestone.

The meeting’s main presentation focused on international aspects of the university – students from other countries who study at UM, and American students who study abroad. Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs, told regents that three-quarters of the UM students who study abroad are female – they’re trying to find out why male students aren’t as interested.

The presentation led to several questions from regents, who wanted clarification about why UM doesn’t offer an international program in Israel. They also cited the importance of finding incentives to keep international students in Michigan after graduation.

Regents also voted on several items, mostly without discussion, including: approving the next step in a major renovation of Alice Lloyd Hall; giving departmental status to the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies; and officially naming the new Law School commons in honor of Bob Aikens, a UM alumnus who donated $10 million to the project.

Another UM alum, Gov. Rick Snyder, had released his proposed state budget earlier in the day. Prior to the meeting, several university executives huddled with Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations, to get updated on the implications for their own budget – funding for higher education is among the many cuts Snyder has proposed. President Mary Sue Coleman also addressed that issue in her opening remarks. [Full Story]

A Night of Transitions at County Board

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (March 17, 2010): The theme of Wednesday night’s meeting was one of transitions, as commissioners voted to dissolve the county’s land bank authority, join a regional energy office, and approve a contract for the next county administrator, Verna McDaniel.

Wes Prater, Paul Schreiber

County commissioner Wes Prater, left, talks with Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber before the start of Wednesday's county board of commissioners meeting. Schreiber came to speak in support of the county's land bank. In the background is deputy clerk Jason Brooks. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners also got an update from their lobbyist in Lansing, who spoke of upcoming transitions in state government that will impact the county. Kirk Profit said the turnover in the legislature, governor’s office and other administrative posts could lead to opportunities for the county. Several commissioners raised concerns over the state budget and state funding for local programs, and are worried that the situation will get worse before it gets better.

Wednesday’s meeting also included two official farewells to long-time county employees: finance director Pete Ballios and Trenda Rusher, director of the county’s Employment Training and Community Services (ETCS) department. Both received standing ovations from commissioners, staff and others in the boardroom. [Full Story]

Board Briefed on Gutting of State Library

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Feb. 15, 2010): During her report to the board, AADL director Josie Parker delivered a scathing review of the state’s moves to downsize the Library of Michigan, laying out the implications for local patrons as well as for the state as a whole.

A memo dated Feb. 12, 2010 from the state Department of Education describes general plans to disperse the state library’s extensive collection. Parker noted that while the memo claims the state will support continued services, such as the popular Michigan eLibrary, there’s nothing that guarantees funding – and “without that, those resources are gone,” she said. [Full Story]

UM Regents: Report on Space Use

Michigan Student Assembly leaders distribute T-shirts to UM regents and administrators

Michigan Student Assembly president Abhishek Mahanti, far left, points to Royster Harper, UM's vice president for student affairs. MSA leaders distributed "Go Blue – Beat OSU" T-shirts to UM regents and administrators at the Nov. 19 regents meeting. The T-shirts were not effective in ensuring a Michigan victory on Saturday. (Photo by the writer.)

University of Michigan Board of Regents (Nov. 19, 2009): Some media outlets that attended the Nov. 19 regents meeting didn’t get what they came for – namely, comments from UM president Mary Sue Coleman regarding the ongoing NCAA investigation of the university’s football program.

What they heard instead was a report on a five-year initiative to use UM’s physical space more efficiently, including its classrooms and labs. The meeting also included a brief report on the outlook for state funding, discussion of renovations to house the Museum of Zoology’s extensive specimen collection, a question about the band Jazz Pie Music. [Full Story]

Local MSU Extension Saved from Closing

Programs of the Michigan State University Extension in Washtenaw County – including 4-H and consumer counseling – were running without interruption this week, while staff was quietly preparing for another potential task: Closing down their operation completely.

At Wednesday’s administrative briefing of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, county administrator Bob Guenzel said that staff had been making preparations to close in light of possible cuts by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who had indicated she might veto MSU Extension funding in a budget bill passed by state legislators.

But on Friday morning, Granholm signed the budget – and spared MSU Extension funding.

“It’s been an interesting week,” Nancy Thelen, director of the Washtenaw MSU Extension, told The Chronicle Friday morning in a phone interview. [Full Story]

UM Hosts Senate Hearing on Higher Ed

The room at the Michigan League

The Vandenberg Room at the Michigan League was packed for a state legislative hearing on funding for higher education.

The three presidents of institutions in Michigan’s University Research Corridor – backed by students and economic development leaders from each region – testified at a state Senate Higher Education Subcommittee hearing on Friday held in Ann Arbor, making a plea for additional state funding. But while legislators at the hearing acknowledged the importance of higher education, they also gave a bleak outlook for Michigan’s financial health, with one senator describing state revenues as “almost in a freefall.”

State Sen. Jim Barcia, a Democrat from Bay City, told the 50 or so people gathered at the Michigan League that a revenue estimate released earlier in the day was “worse news than anticipated.” The Senate Fiscal Agency estimated that revenues could be $2.1 billion lower than projected for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Even in the current fiscal year, the state faces a $1.3 billion deficit that has prompted another round of cuts. Despite that, Barcia said the students who testified on Friday – including a recent University of Michigan graduate who has launched a new company – gave him reason for optimism. [Full Story]