RCAS approves 2013-14 budget

ROGERS CITY – The Rogers City Area Schools Board of Education approved a budget Monday for the 2013-14 school year, one with a slight deficit despite increases in state funding and cuts to district spending.

After a brief public hearing, board members unanimously approved a budget with $4,566,100 in estimated revenues and $4,683,784 in projected expenses. To make up for the difference, the district will take $117,684 from its general fund balance. While it’s not perfect, board members agreed the budget maintains teaching staff and education programs at their current levels.

Revenues have been impacted by a fall in non-homestead taxable values, but the district was especially hurt by cuts to federal funding, district Superintendent Katy Xenakis-Makowski told the board. Most of the roughly $86,000 in decreased revenues comes from cuts to federal spending. As one example, Title I, Part A funds will be $19,000 lower than last year’s amount.

There are a few bright spots. For one, the district expects to get more per-pupil funding from the state, Xenakis-Makowski said. Its foundation budget is expected to be up to $7,000 per pupil, up from $6,996. Enrollment also is expected to remain steady, or possibly increase.

The district was able to save money in a number of ways, including not replacing a full-time kitchen employee who retired and combining the secondary school principal and athletic director’s position, Xenakis-Makowski said. The latter made for a more than $20,000 savings in the athletic programs budget.

District revenues could benefit from a proposal that hasn’t yet been signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Makowski said. She said she also hasn’t yet received a final number on how much the district will get for its foundation allowance.

Board member Lee Gapcznski said he was concerned by the need to spend some of the district’s general fund balance once again. After making up for the shortfall, the budget will be down to $643,993 – 13.75 percent of district expenditures for the school year.

“You can see … that we’ve spent down the fund balance by about 50 percent” over a number of years, he said. “That’s not a good place to be.”

While board President Michael Marx agreed, he said the board has made some hard decisions in the past that has allowed it to keep its teaching staff and educational programs at the same levels going into the next school year.

“Unlike some other schools, we’re not going to have to lay off teachers or support staff this year, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “Student count seems to be leveling off over the last five years, so that’s a good thing. It’s easier to plan if you have a level playing field to start with.”

Due in part to its diminishing general fund balance, the district will borrow $300,000 to ensure a solid cash flow during the months of November and December, Marx said. The money will come from the Michigan Finance Authority’s State Aid Note Loan Program.

In other news:

  • board members heard a presentation from students who participated in the Starbase program hosted at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. The federally-funded program is free to attend, with the district needing to cover only the cost of transportation. Rogers City and Posen students shared a bus, and two students told about what they learned.
  • the district will purchase its third bus from the Holland Bus Company for $81,494 using money from its tranportation and technology bonds, Xenakis-Makowski said.
  • board members accepted the resignation of Matt Ponik as the seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball coach, and approved hiring Mike Bowden as the junior varsity boys basketball coach.
  • the district will buy a new pickup truck for up to $26,000, use building and site funds to refinish the high school gymnasium floor for $20,300 and purchase a new dust collection system for the wood shop for $12,964.
  • board members approved a $25,600 contract with the Institute for Excellence in Education. Xenakis-Makowski said the institute will hold professional development days to teach elementary math teachers how to use the data they have to address weak areas in the district curricula. After helping them formulate a plan, institute representatives will come back throughout the year to assess how it’s working. It’s about half the cost of a new math textbook program.
  • Northern Technology Services once again will work with the district after board members approved a contract mostly identical to last years’. For $32,000, the company will provide three days per week for 49 weeks.
  • board members approved a number of tweaks to district policy covering a wide variety of topics.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.