RACS will spend to keep programs, staffing

By JORDAN TRAVIS

News Staff Writer

ROGERS CITY – Rogers City Area Schools will spend more of its general fund balance to keep programs and staffing steady through another school year.

Board members passed a budget Monday with $4,818,451 in predicted revenues and $4,879,876 in expenses. The district will cover the $61,425 from its general fund balance, dropping it to the low end of what the district considers an acceptable percentage of annual expenses, Superintendent Katy Xenakis-Makowski said.

Declining enrollment is partly to blame, along with state-mandated increases to retirement and health insurance payments, Xenakis-Makowski said. Compounding the issue, districts across the state still don’t know what they’re going to get in state aid.

“At this point in time, I don’t have a solid number from (Lansing) and I’m not willing to guess,” she said.

It’s possible lawmakers could reach a deal, even before the district adjusts its budget at a June 23 meeting, Xenakis-Makowski said. But state law requires the district and all others to pass a budget in June, regardless of whether the state Legislature has reached a decision on school funding.

President Michael Marx said the district had to go with a conservative estimate until school aid numbers are finalized. As it is, the budget it adopted is something of a work in transition.

The budget is so bare bones that administrative staff won’t get any raises, Xenakis-Makowski said. Board members renewed the contracts Monday, and aside from the effective dates they’re identical to the previous ones.

“District-wide, we have not had pay raises here for quite a few years, and it would be very nice to be able to recognize the hard work that everyone’s put in,” she said.

Rogers City students will see the same programs next school year, and there are no plans to cut any staff, Xenakis-Makowski said. That’s due to a healthy general fund budget that has allowed the district to maintain its programs.

That fund balance will drop to 11.5 percent of annual expenses, or 10.61 percent if restricted funds aren’t counted, Xenakis-Makowski said. District policy calls for one from 10-15 percent, although auditors generally prefer to see one on the higher end of that range. It helps pay bills if an unexpected large capital expense surfaces.

“I’d prefer it to be at 12.5 percent to give us some room in case something comes up,” she said. “This year we had to replace parts of a boiler.”

The school board finance committee said Monday there are no more places to cut without cutting programs, Xenakis-Makowski said. The district is likely safe this year, but may have to reconsider if the funding crunch and sliding enrollment continues. For now, she said she’d love to see a little help coming from Lansing.

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.