Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Call to Action!!

I attended the EGRPS Board of Education Meeting on Monday, May 24, 2010.  I was heartened to see so many in attendance.  Here is a summary of the public comments made during the first 40 minutes of the meeting.  There were 4 comments regarding the essential skills of Trent Wadsworth, the Auditorium manager who is being threatened with a slash of his position from full time to half time.  There were five people who voiced concern over the impending loss of funding for the Youth Development program.  In both cases either current students or recent graduates were among the commentators.  The wrestling coach reported on the struggles the team has had and the plan for the team to decrease the costs involved.  A parent commented that the team is looking to decrease the costs for the team by half and submitted a proposal.  Two wrestlers voiced their concerns about eliminating the program.  A comment was made concerning the loss of the Middle School counselor.  A first grade paraprofessional commented on the essential services provided by these professionals, asking that the program not be eliminated.  She submitted a report with statistics regarding the need for these services.  A comment was made by a long term library volunteer on how difficult it will be to man the libraries with volunteers and how difficult it will be for the students who have received literature suggestions and research assistance by the paraprofessional in the library.

The layoffs which were proposed included: Kindergarten Teacher at Breton (.5 FTE), a full time High School Counselor, the (.6 FTE) Middle School Social Worker, the Breton Social Worker (.6 FTE) and the Health Teacher at the High School (.3 FTE).  The proposals were approved by the Board, but the layoffs will only occur if necessary.  Notification has to be made in the semester prior to the layoff according to the teacher's contract.

Mr. Kevin Phillips reported on the May Revenue conference in Lansing and how this will impact EGRPS.  In January of each year, the State Fiscal Agency attempts to estimate how much money will be collected in taxes and whether this money will be enough to pay for all of the expenses in the State of Michigan budget that is passed the previous October 1st of each year.  The January 2010 Estimation was very bleak and this is where the plan to cut $250 per pupil in funding K-12 education was derived from.  This was not unexpected.  Michigan is going through a severe downturn in the economy and the budget is no longer being propped up with federal stimulus dollars.  When the May conference tallied the numbers, however, the money collected from the state was looking less bleak and that the School Aid Fund might have $300 million more than was anticipated in January.  Much of this coming from $180 million in federal stimulus that is being carried over from last year.  Mr. Phillips is reporting that many of the proposed cuts will not happen if the per pupil funding is not cut by as much as originally anticipated.  That is, if the $300 million is actually used for K-12.

Mr. Phillips also reported on the Retirement Bill which was recently passed by the legislature.  This incentive by the State of Michigan is to urge teachers with a combination of years of service and age to retire at a slightly higher rate, which will allow them to keep their benefits.  Those who choose to stay working will have a mandatory 3% contribution of their salary to a State of Michigan fund to fund retiree health benefits.  This change in the law will not benefit EGRPS a whole lot.  EGRPS has been careful to offer retirement incentives in the past, so there may not be a large pool of retirees under this program.  EGRPS will have some help from the state in implementing this program for the first year.  In 2011-12 and 2012-13, the wage replacement will be gone and districts will have the higher retirement costs until the incentives are paid off in 5-6 years. 

Lucy Lafleur