In state’s shadow, school districts finalize budget

Published 7:31 pm Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Edwardsburg Argus

As state legislators are approaching a self-imposed deadline to have a finalized budget with little hope of doing so – Michigan school districts like Edwardsburg Public Schools are finalizing their own budgets on the same deadline of July 1.

“I think the biggest thing that we are facing is going to be the continued pro-ration at the state level,” said Anne Flautt, chief financial officer for the district.

The district submitted its budget to the board of education Monday night for a formal adoption.

Flautt said school officials are moving forward with a forecast of a $165 reduction in funding per student in state aid.

With their current projections, Edwardsburg is facing a shortfall of $735,334 – a number that comes in significantly lower than some surrounding districts.

Both Flautt and superintendent Sherman Ostrander say the way the district has approached both spending and cutbacks is an important factor.

“We started based on the best information we had,” Ostrander said. The outcome was in part due to “strategic planning, related to areas we could cut that would have the least impact on the quality of education for our students.

“We are prepared to manage an operate that budget in a fiscally responsible way so that hopefully we could bring that down further and keep our instructional programs intact,” he said.

The district delayed expenditures, Flautt said, “we’ve cut around the edges as close as we can. (Cuts) will not be as catastrophic as much as we originally thought. They’re still going to be significant but they’re not going to be catastrophic.”

Flautt said the uncertainty remains “most school districts biggest concern.”

“Overall, things have gotten better,” she said. “But when we had done our original forecast, it was based on January revenue estimates at the state level.”

Some say there is concern that certain legislators in Lansing will try to divert funds from the school aid fund in order to manage the state’s general fund deficit.

“Our concern about that is that it’s an attempt to divest the school aid fund away from public education,” Flautt said. “That’s never been done before and that’s not anything that we’d ever be in support of.”

In the meantime, Ostrander said Edwardsburg has benefited from growing its student enrollment, which has helped in offsetting some of the financial strain passed down from the state.