ISHPEMING - With final decisions hinging on factors like the number of staff participating in a voluntary severance plan and the outcome of Gov. Rick Snyder's budget proposal, the NICE Community Schools Board of Education is tackling a projected $1.5 million deficit for the 2011-2012 school year.
At its meeting Monday, the board directed Superintendent Michael Haynes to investigate a series of potential budget cuts and to send out layoff notices to district staff who could be affected by budget decisions.
"Our target continues to be $1.5 million, which I don't need to reinforce is staggering. Given a $10 million budget, that's a 15 percent cut," Haynes said.
The board gave Haynes approval to continue with investigating some of the cuts, with a final list of cuts to be discussed at the May board meeting.
"That doesn't mean that every single item that's on this list will be implemented, but there's still a fair amount of exploration that has to be tackled," Haynes said.
Under the area of personnel, Haynes said the district was looking at eliminating six full-time equivalent positions and reducing the work day by one hour for 12-month, full-time support staff employees in the district's American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, coming to $228,000 in reductions.
For teachers in the NICE Teachers Association, the district is looking at a reduction of 5.81 FTEs, three retirements under the district's voluntary severance plan and some other savings measures, coming to $427,000 in reductions.
For administration, Haynes highlighted $290,000 in reductions, including voluntary pay reductions and elimination of assistant principal positions, among other measures in the district's business office.
Haynes said he was also looking at negotiating a 5 percent pay cut for all employees.
In the area of instruction, which does not include personnel, the list includes $92,000 in reduced supplies and materials in both district buildings, not purchasing textbooks, reducing supplies and materials for special education, vocational education, music and media and reducing the time contracted with computer mechanics
Increasing tuition costs for the district's NICE Start early childhood program is also included. The cuts also include reducing $25,000 from the district's operations and $66,000 from the district's extracurricular activities, including reducing the general fund's contribution to athletics and non-athletic activities.
"Our No. 1 objective is that we either reduce expenditures or increase revenues in athletics, but not to the degree that we would eliminate a sport or an activity. Those are some of the things that bring students to our district," Haynes said.
In addition to approving further planning for the potential cuts, the board also approved the sending of layoff notices to staff who could be impacted.
The list of potential cuts, without specifics on what positions would be cut, is available on the district's website at www.nice.k12.mi.us/District/FinancialInformation.aspx.
Although there were a number of district staff in attendance at the meeting to hear about the budget, about half the meeting audience attended in support of bringing the cooperative wrestling program with the Ishpeming Public Schools back to the NICE District.
While those who spoke said they did not want to dissolve the cooperative program between the two districts, it has been hosted at the Ishpeming schools for the past eight years. Parents and coaches said they wanted to see the program hosted at Westwood High School.
The board decided to have athletics staff and administration work with Ishpeming to see if a different arrangement can be reached before considering breaking off into its own program.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.