Edwardsburg School Board trying to eliminate deficit

There wasn’t an empty seat in site at the Edwardsburg School Board meeting Tuesday night, where dozens of students and parents spoke out against budget cuts.

The school district is looking at a $3 million deficit for the next fiscal year, thanks to changes in state funding levels.

“A year ago we were reduced $470 dollars per student,” said Superintendent Sherman Ostrander. “What I didn't anticipate and what I'm sure other superintendents didn't as well is we would again receive no significant increase. So, our current state per student is less than we received in 2005.”

That means the school board is facing some tough decisions as they try to close the gap. Part of the deficit will be covered by money they have in savings, but the district still has to cut $1.5 million.

To help, one of the district’s two band director positions has been eliminated for next year. It’s a cut that drew a standing room only crowd to the meeting.

Among the many parents and students was Noah McGivern, who was so inspired by the teacher, Spencer White, he wrote an essay about him that won a statewide contest.

“The prompt was my Michigan hero,” McGivern said. “He's just inspiring, just the way that he teaches and talks to kids. He just drives you onward to perform the best you can.”

Along with White, a librarian position is also being eliminated. One of the district’s business teacher will be bumped down to part-time next year.

Many of the parents and students pleaded with the board to look at other areas to cut instead of taking away one of the band directors.

But the board says it doesn’t have many options.

“The head coaches, it would take the equivalent of 8.6 coaches to equate to one teacher,” Ostrander said. “So do you remove 8 head coaches?”

The board still has to approve the rest of the budget cuts, which were presented by department heads Tuesday night.

Custodial, maintenance and transportation staff have all agreed to take concessions.

The district’s also offering a resignation and retirement incentive for teachers who’ve been at the district more than 20 years. For each teacher who takes advantage of the program, the district will save about $25,000.

The deadline to apply for the incentive is April 30, so the district won’t know if they’ll hit the $1.5 million in cuts they need to make until then.

So, the board plans on waiting to vote on the cuts until May. If they come up short, more will have to be slashed from the budget.

“80 percent of our budget is people,” Ostrander said. “When you’re looking at where you can reduce expenditures, ultimately it comes down to individuals.”

Ostrander says he’s hoping enough teachers will take advantage of the incentive program that the district won’t have to hand out pink slips in May.

But no matter what the district does, Ostrander says they need help from Lansing if they’re going to get by.

“There's approximately 50 receivership districts this year,” he said. “It's estimated another 100 could go into receivership next year. How far do we go?”

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