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Negaunee school board makes budget cuts, taps fund balance ~ Part 1

June 14, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

NEGAUNEE - Applause broke out after the Negaunee school board unanimously approved its one motion during its budget work session Monday night, and while the audience was pleased with the board's decision to make limited cuts, the district could be facing the same issues next year.

The board voted unanimously to make $137,700 in cuts, using the district's fund balance to fill the remainder of the projected $1,057,000 deficit for next year.

"I'm not surprised," said Superintendent Jim Derocher. "It just puts us in a very precarious situation for next year."

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The motion to make fewer cuts and use the fund balance was made by board Treasurer Martin Saari, supported by Secretary Fae Collins and unanimously approved by the board.

"It seems like the last six years, it's been doom and gloom when it comes to the budget. It doesn't give any of us great pride to be sitting up here when we get no help from the state and no help from the federal government," Saari said. "We're hearing that this year is bad, next year could be worse. We can cut through and have a patch quilt kind of deal here, impact a lot of people's lives.

"My feeling is if we have 200K in the fund balance or $490 (thousand) in the fund balance and we're looking at a million-plus deficit next year, who really cares?"

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The board voted to cut the district's special education coordinator under a third-party contract ($45,563), cut a transfer to the athletic fund ($30,000), close the high school pool ($27,000 for chemicals and a part-time custodial position), cut the SHINE volunteer coordination program ($12,000) and eliminate a $23,137 transfer to the food service budget.

The pool closure takes effect July 1, after which no swim classes and no community activities will take place. The plans for the cooperative high school swim team - which incudes Negaunee, Ishpeming, Gwinn and Republic-Michigamme - will need to be worked out.

Although the board voted to only make those cuts, additional measures could have included the cutting of four teaching positions, closing of the district's media centers, eliminating kindergarten classroom aides, privatization of custodial services and eliminating the district's nurse position.

Supporters of the district's music department were the majority of those who attended the meeting, fearing that the cutting of one of the department's four teachers would lead to a reorganization of the department, putting the remaining teachers at the head of classes they don't specialize in. Other concerns included the cutting of the jazz band program.

A group of current music students and recent graduates attended the meeting, marching up the hill to the high school to the beat of a drum and carrying signs reading "You can't stop the beat" and other musical slogans.

The district is anticipating $11,186,636 in revenues for next year, along with $11,816,594 in expenditures. Added to that is an increase of $237,288 in health insurance costs and $190,100 in retirement increases, leading to a deficit of $1,057,346.

The district will also be attempting to fulfill four of the five items identified as best practices by the governor, which would lead to an additional $143,740 in revenues for the district.

Negaunee Education Association President Rae Ann Loy said the teachers union, which has been working under an old contract since September 2010, will be meeting with the district throughout the summer for negotiations.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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