AMA ESD approves budget

ALPENA – The Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Board of Education approved the 2014-15 General Appropriations Act for the general and special education funds at its meeting Thursday evening.

There is good news from the preliminary information the board has received about the state budget regarding Section 81 operational funds in the general fund, which is anticipated to have a four precent increase this coming year.

“An increase is pretty substantial for us because we haven’t had any increases in the last few years. We’ve had decreases, actually,” assistant superintendent Tony Suszek said. “That will bring us up to $369,785 in Section 81, the operational funds in the general fund.”

Most of the funds for the AMA ESD come from restricted funds, where the money received from the state and has specific instructions for spending.

“We have a Science grant, the Great Parents Great Start, the Great Start Collaborative, Great Start Readiness, which is over $1 million, and we have an unfunded liability we receive from the state specifically for special education per pupil and cost reimbursement for special education,” Suszek said. “Overall we’re doing well, but part of that is we’re not replacing some staff who retired at this point, and that helps the budget in the general fund. We’re going to try to make ends meet without filling that for now.”

Suszek also said there are some savings in the special education fund because of retirements that will most likely not be replaced, due to declining enrollment.

“In the special education fund we had a number of staff retire, but because of declining enrollment we don’t really need to replace all those positions either. We’re holding our own. Our budgets are doing well, and we’re able to offer the excellent services that we need to offer,” Suszek said. “I’m very proud of the fact that we never have excess staff, so we’re not laying people off. It’s easier to add staff then to ever have to lay off, and at this point we’re not replacing some of the retirees, and that will help the budget.”

For a number of years in the general fund, the AMA ESD was in the red by around $150,000 to $200,000, but had it had built up a fund balance several years before just in case, which was going down continually. Suszek said there were several adjustments made and contracts negotiated, along with retirements, and now the ESD is projected to be just about in the black by the end of the current school year, ending $17,929 in the red.

The board also approved amendments to add a few minor grants to the 2013-14 budget, and to allocate some of the staff time to some of those grants in the general fund. The special education fund received about $143,000 in additional Medicaid money and had some decreased health insurance costs that had a major effect on the special education fund budget.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.