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Brandywine lays out proposed cuts for citizens

Published 8:50am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Niles Daily Star

Brandywine Superintendent John Jarpe presented his proposed cuts for next year’s budget to about 20 parents and faculty at a community forum at Merritt Elementary Tuesday morning.
Currently the district faces a $1.46 million shortfall for the coming year’s budget.

The major cuts hit teachers. Jarpe is recommending $950,000 in teacher salaries and benefits be slashed, meaning laying off about 17 teachers. The school board will vote on layoffs Monday.
He said since a big fraction of the district’s budget is from teacher salaries and benefits, reductions were unavoidable.

“This is not something we brought upon ourselves,” Jarpe said. “It’s going on throughout the state.”

Niles Community Schools, for example, is looking at a $3 million shortfall.

Jarpe is also proposing rerouting bus routes that would result in longer walking distances for students but would save the district an estimated $100,000. Another $33,000 could be cut from the budget if the district goes to one-way busing to athletic events.

Jarpe also said energy savings could add up to $29,000, while administration pay and benefit freezes would save $32,000. Reduction in day care and clerical help could save another $31,000.
“We have a lot of painful cuts,” he said. “And we’re still looking at $270,000 more for a balanced budget.”

The school board must have an approved budget by the end of June and teacher layoff notices must be given by the end of the month.

Brandywine currently has a $3.1 million fund equity, but Jarpe said the district will not touch it in order to be prepared for an emergency or mid-year reductions in funding from the state.

The district is looking at this ominous budget restructuring due to a significant loss in state aid, which comes from sales taxes.

“Auto sales are down in Michigan, hurting the sales tax,” Jarpe said. “Therefore not much money is going toward schools.”
This school year the state instituted a $165 per student cut in funding and another $268 per student could be on the way next year.

That loss in state aid plus a steady decline in enrollment and an increase in cost combine in “creating this storm,” Jarpe said.

Jarpe also addressed how the cuts would affect students.

He is recommending cutting Spanish and art classes in the elementary schools.

“We are trying to protect our direct classroom instruction, the core classes,” Jarpe said. “These are not necessarily forever cuts. I’m not closing the door on these forever.”

He also added that volunteers and guest artists could help fill the art class void.

Jarpe also recommends forming a fifth and sixth grade split class, arguing that he has seen the combination work well in other districts.

The biggest concern of the community members who attended the presentation was the proposal of increasing class sizes. Multiple concerned parents asked Jarpe just how much bigger the classes could be.

He could not give a direct answer but said the goal is to keep all classes under 30 students.

Jarpe closed by urging parents to call their legislators to push for more public school funding. He also attempted to put a positive spin on what was a very serious meeting.

“I believe in this school district,” he said. “We really have something going here. Doom and gloom, yes. But with any tough time, there are better times coming.”

Another community forum is scheduled for today at 7 p.m. in the Brandywine Middle/Senior High School Media Center.

Proposed cuts:
Staff salary/benefits    $950,000
Transportation    $100,000
Athletics        $33,000
Energy        $29,000
Operations        $16,000
Administration freezes    $12,000
Admin health packages    $20,000
Day care        $16,000
Clerical        $15,000
Savings still needed    $270,000

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