Onaway exploring options regarding possible layoffs

ONAWAY – Two Onaway Area Community Schools staff members may be laid off in August, board of education President Sharon Lyon said.

The board opted Tuesday to wait until its next meeting before deciding whether to lay off the part-time high school guidance counselor, as well as an employee who does work in the library, monitors a suspension room and a technology lab, Lyon said. She and other members want more information on how other staff would take on the responsibilities if the two positions are eliminated. The district is considering the layoffs due to a tight budget, bad economy and little help from state funding.

“We want a little more information on the layoffs and what ramifications that’s going to make for our school,” she said. “We want to know more precisely what the plan is. I’m not saying that it will happen or won’t happen, we’re just gathering more information at this point.”

Superintendent Rod Fullerton will meet with school principals Monday to discuss how the two positions could be covered. While laying off the employees would save the district $134,400 for the upcoming school year, school staff already are taking on many responsibilities.

“Any layoff is concerning,” he said. “We’re down to a staffing point where everybody is doing more things than they’ve ever done before. As with any school, people are doing double duty with many functions.”

Nevertheless, Onaway has to figure out how to deal with an ever-tightening budget, Fullerton said. Lyon echoed this, saying the board is always looking for ways to save money.

Onaway schools board adopted a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year in June calling for deficit spending to be covered by money taken from its general fund balance, Fullerton said at the time. With revenues projected at $5,764,863 and expenses at $6,004,833, the district will be left with a general fund balance of just under $300,000. That’s about 5 percent of expenses.

“Our fund equity is depleting and as things go, fund equities should be enough that if you have an emergency, it can cover an emergency,” Lyon said. “We’re afraid that it’s getting down to a jeopardy situation.”

While the state will increase its K-12 foundation allowance rate slightly this year, Onaway faces a situation many districts in the state are struggling with, Fullerton said. Student enrollment is declining, property values have bottomed out and the district’s revenues are decreasing.

Lyon is still hopeful the board can find another way to cut spending besides layoffs, she said, although she doesn’t have any definite plans yet.

In other business:

  • Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle Educational Services District Superintendent Mary Vratanina visited the board and talked about the various services COP-ESD offers.
  • Harbor Springs Public Schools Technology Department Director Chris Nelson told the board about his district’s technology plan as Onaway board members consider adopting one of their own, Lyon said. The plan will factor in educational requirements, as well as how to keep the district’s technology up to date.

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.