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Cuts Possible as Deficit Looms Over Brighton Area Schools

Board Members must decide whether to implement cuts this fiscal year or look ahead to next year.

Brighton Area Board of Education members spent a good portion of Monday night's meeting discussing budget reduction ideas to offset what could be a $500,000 deficit this fiscal year if Lindbom Elementary does not sell. 

Superintendent Greg Gray said that Board members will have to decide at the next meeting whether or not to look at budget cuts recommended by staff prior to the end of this fiscal year or wait and look at them for next year's budget.

Board President Miles Vieau suggested his fellow board members should consider absorbing the deficit this year to use the extra time to make cuts for the 2013-14 budget because it is so late in the year. 

Gray said that currently, the district does not know what will happen with the budget, and that it could swing either way.

"It depends how long winter lasts in terms of projections on our heat and electricity," Gray said. "It depends on staffing costs, whether or not we have additional costs second semester with move-ins or move-outs, there's a number of factors that are just out of our control that we have to guess on. Most of the time we come pretty close, but we'll have to see."

Limited options

The Board will be considering options such as eliminating unionized maintenance and secretarial positions, then hiring them back through a third party at a reduced cost. 

In addition, Gray said that the new master schedule put into place for next year will reduce anywhere from 10 to 15 teaching positions district-wide, for an overall savings of anywhere from $1.5 million to $750,000, depending on the pay scale. 

Gray also said that the district will be bargaining all other contracts this year. 

"We've said 100 times the cost of a school district is tied up in people," he said. "So it will be less people or less money for people. That's primarily it."

Trustee John Conely suggested restoring Pay to Play fees, after Board members approved a 2-year elimination plan last June. He also recommended eliminating the Police Liaison position with the City of Brighton Police Department. 

The liaison contract comes before board members for renewal every year and was recently approved last August. Brighton Schools cover the cost of the police liaison officer's salary - including benefits - for the months he works at the school. They do not pay him during the summer months off. The salary the district currently pays the liaison is $79,663, including benefits. 

Board Secretary Nick Fiani made several suggestions for cutbacks including either shutting down the aquatics center or turning it over to SELCRA to run. The district has not discussed any such plan with SELCRA representatives. 

According to Fiani, the aquatics center has lost an average of $25,000 in the last two years. 

Fiani commented that the district was not running a country club. 

"It's certainly something we need to look at more seriously given the current conditions," he said.

Gray warned that shutting down the pool might drive even more students out of the district and into others with them. 

Board members will decide which cutbacks they would like to pursue during the next board meeting on March 11. 

In what areas do you think Board members should consider cutbacks? Tell us in the comments.

Mike February 28, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Interesting. My position is that the people are in near total agreement on every basic issue, other than abortion. The politicians desire to keep everyone believing we are divided so they can continue their corrupt behavior. It prevents any discussion of policy and keeps people arguing about divisive issues which are generally small, specific topics, and while important to many, not meaningful in basic policy discussions. There are so many examples of this from both established parties and their leadership. For instance, do you know anyone who would allow children to starve? I don't, yet we hear leaders make this claim about 10s of millions of Americans on a regular basis. Conversely, do you know anyone who hates America? Once again, we are told there are 10s of millions of Americans who hate America. I could go one, there is a long list, but I suspect that at a basic issue level, we are very much in agreement and would be surprised that discussions along these lines would match that agreement. And for clarification, I have no party leanings, as both parties, at least at a national level, are corrupt to the core. Some might call me conservative in many ways, but then the politicians also use many labels to keep us apart as well. Thanks again.
Kate February 28, 2013 at 09:00 PM
I respect what you're saying. However, you mentioned in your previous comment: 'I cannot claim to have a comprehensive knowledge of board activities. And I really cannot determine where their political leanings lie.' You went on to state that they agree on every issue but abortion, to your knowledge. If you can't determine their political leanings, it would be difficult to know their stance on that issue. Therefore, I deduce that there is an apparent political stance among members, and that is being reflected in the decision-making process. If you Google some of the members, you will also learn what parties some of them are affiliated with, some more... extreme than others. And I think the extreme nature/closed-mindedness of some board members can be toxic to an environment like a school board. It becomes a battle of wills, pro-union vs. GOP, duking it out at the expense of the teacher and the kids. Ultimately, I will tell you, the GOP wants the teachers to lose their pensions, period. Anyone is fooling themselves if they think otherwise. I think we are both in agreement that the most important people at stake here are the children. I just hope that adults involved can keep them the central focus without any other agenda muddying the waters. Have a good week, Mike, it was nice picking your brain, and sharing some ideas.
Mike March 01, 2013 at 10:19 PM
With regard to teacher's unions, many would phrase your "pro-union vs. GOP" as anti-child vs. everyone else.
Kate March 02, 2013 at 12:52 AM
The 'many' people phrasing it that way would obviously not be using their intellect, if that was the case, as many 'pro-union' folks are teachers. Unless, of course, you're accusing teachers of being 'anti-child'. Odd, bold statement.
Kate March 02, 2013 at 01:14 AM
Again, the people who think that teachers need their compensation cut are usually the people that have little/no respect for what teachers do each day. It comes down to sheer envy, often, of the benefits that teachers have from educating the masses. I have a feeling that any of the folks on the board would be pretty peeved if their pensions were threatened. I can get on board with minimizing renovations and cutting corners in other ways. Teacher pay is the least of the district's 'problems'. Pay = the solution to educating kids well. Unless they'd like to cut pay (pay freeze is understandable, in a pinch) or even worse, get rid of benefits like pensions--watch the good teachers jump ship, watch the school district tank due to lack of quality education, and then watch property values tank as well. Yes, let's punish the teachers. The logic is lacking. Badly. All of the teachers that I've known live fairly modestly. Comfortably, as they should for the work that they do, but no one is living large, that I know of. This myth that teachers are rolling in dough, and really just have a grand old time being 'wealthy' is rather hilarious. If they're lucky they gain tenure and they're able to put some money away, feed their families, and have a nice life. Stop perpetuating the myth that teachers are 'ballers', as the kids say. From what some board members and community followers would have you believe, they can afford golden toilet seats. Don't believe the hype.

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