CHASSELL - The Chassell Township Schools Board of Education approved the district's 2011-12 budget with a deficit, but the deficit can be compensated for from the district's fund balance.
At a public hearing on the budget before the board's regular meeting Tuesday, Jason Auel, district business manager, said as with most school districts in Michigan, there are uncertainties when a budget is created.
"When the budget is put together, there's a lot of assumptions that go into it," he said.
Former Chassell School Board member Doug Hamar, right, receives a plaque of appreciation from board president Chris Holmes for Hamar’s 32 years serving the school board during the board’s meeting recently. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Kurt Hauglie)
Auel said one of the certainties about the budget is there will be a $470 per-pupil cut in school aid from the Michigan Legislature. That cut means the per-pupil foundation for Chassell Schools will drop from $7,313 to $6,846.
"It's a pretty good decrease," he said.
The $2.3 million budget will have a $181,230 deficit, but Auel said it can be taken care of.
"We do have fund balance ($420,458) to cover that," he said.
Superintendent George Stockero said one of the uncertainties school districts have to deal with when making a budget is the number of students they will have for each year. Next school year, he projects there will be 270 students and the kindergarten is expected to grow, but it may not.
"I can't count on it," he said.
The $470 per-pupil cut in state aid will mean about $126,000 less for the district, Stockero said. There will also be a $30,000 increase in retirement costs.
Auel said there are predictions Michigan's economy will improve next year, which means the Legislature may be able to provide more money to schools, but it isn't certain.
"It's hard to say," he said. "There's some improvements (in the economy). We'll see how the year progresses."
State funding to schools is now at 2005 levels, Auel said.
Stockero said the Legislature is providing school districts with $100 per pupil for following what they are calling "best practices" for running their schools, and it's possible that could mean $27,000 for Chassell. To get that money, the district has to meet four of five criteria. If the district is able to meet those criteria, the money wouldn't be received until next June, so it isn't in the current budget.
Auel said the board should look at the budget again in February and make any needed adjustments.
The board unanimously approved the proposed 2011-12 budget. It also approved 18 mill operational, 7.65 debt retirement and .1973 sinking fund levies.
Board members also approved the amended 2010-11 budget, which finished at $2.3 million in expenses.
Before the board began its regular meeting, former member Doug Hamar received a plaque for his 32 years of service to the school board from board president Chris Holmes.
Holmes said he appreciated Hamar's help to him over the years.
"I've learned a tremendous amount from you," he said.
Stockero said the amount of time Hamar spent doing school board business equaled about one full year of five days a week, and that surprised him.
"I was amazed when I thought of the 32 years," he said.
Hamar said he appreciates the effort all current and past board members put into the district's needs.
"I've learned from everybody I served with," he said. "Everybody who served on the board contributed in many ways."
In other business, the board:
heard from Stockero the district's students were at or above state standards for the recent Michigan Merit Exam, and scored especially high in science and social studies, but they were deficient in reading.
approved hiring new teachers: Heather Hainault for fourth grade; Rebekah Schmidt for kindergarten; and Sarah Hoekstra for half time sixth grade.
approved an extension of Stockero's contract through 2012-13.