Brandywine wary of state funding cut

Published 8:58 am Thursday, January 25, 2007

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – It may be too late in the year for Brandywine Community Schools to make large budget adjustments if the state's School Aid Fund (SAF) is passed as it stands now.
Sue Furney, the district's director of finance and operations, said she does not expect lawmakers to approve the SAF as it is presented now with a $377 million deficit. If it were passed, however, the state would actually be taking back more money than it promised to the district in the first place, she said.
"For this year we probably won't be able to do much more than just try to reduce expenses on anything that's not absolutely necessary. For next year we will have to sit down and make a very clear plan of what we might have to reduce," Furney said.
That could include cuts in some areas of the Brandywine budget.
"We just don't know what the magnitude would be at this time," she added.
Information presented to Furney from Associate Director of House Fiscal Agency Mary Ann Cleary, who spoke Thursday, Jan. 18 to the Michigan School Business Officials Conference, shows a total state shortfall of $722.8 million – a result of a state general fund shortfall of $345.5 million and a K through 12 funding shortfall of $377.3 million. The deficit is being attributed to less than expected revenue and budget lapse for fiscal year 2006, and reduced revenue estimates for 2007.
To remedy the problem, Furney said the state will be looking into a couple options, including replacing the Single Business Tax – worth $1.9 billion and set to expire Dec. 31 2007 – increasing the income tax or taxes on services like legal services and accounting, and a pro-ration.
Pro-rations, as Furney explained, work as follows: The state starts out each year providing funding to districts based on an allocation, which is determined by a per student amount – $210 for this year – multiplied by the total number of students. The allocation is then distributed across 10 months of payments.
Given how late it is in the fiscal year, if the state were to reduce the $210 per pupil funding amount and calculate how much less it would be and how much Brandywine has already received and pro-rate the reduction across remaining payments, the state would be taking more back than it originally gave to the district in order to balance the shortfall, Furney said.
Decreased school funding is not new in Michigan, Furney said, adding for years Brandywine has been making spending cuts by privatizing custodial services and reducing the budgets for supplies and textbook down to the bare minimum with the hope of avoiding eliminating teachers.
"We tried as much as we could to keep [cuts] out of the classroom," Furney said.