April 13, 2011

Schools plan to survive Snyder cuts

Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed K-12 budget cuts of $471 per student may force Hudson Area Schools to make another $1.5 million in cuts to the budget, after making $1.5 million in cuts in 2009.

“Over a million dollars in cuts will need to be made based on the Governor’s proposal, but a lot of things could change between then and now,” said Superintendant Michael Osborne. Governor Snyder’s education plan will be released on April 25. The governor’s proposal may or may not pass the Michigan State Congress.

If the proposal passes as it stands, the results will be devastating to schools across the state, not just the local district, which has seen repeated budget cuts and program cutbacks for several years.

STUDENTS AT LINCOLN SCHOOL stay busy with their class work, but the quality of their education may be at risk in the near future since the Hudson Area Schools face having to make a further $1.5 million budget cut, on top of other budget cuts that have taken place over the last several years. Photo Courtesy Linda Reuter

“We’ve already cut so much,” said Osborne. “We’ve cut close to $1.5 million dollars over the last two years out of our budget, and that was after taking substantial cuts out of the budget for the previous six years before that.”

Contingency planning is already well under way, but the district’s budgets have already been cut to the bone, so the possibilities for further cuts are very limited. The district has already been working on consolidating services with Morenci, and shares Dr. Osborne as superintendant, and has already reduced staffing significantly.

“Three to five years from now, we want to look back and make sure our doors are still open and that we still have a strong academic program for our students. That’s our number one priority,” said Osborne of the planning underway. “We’re going to make sure our school is as competitive as possible, and we’ve got to remain focused on the important things. For instance, we’re making sure our core classes are quality core courses and that our kids are getting the best experiences they can from those courses. We want to make sure we still have our PE classes, the art classes, the band, and the other things. But those are things that we may not have as broad of offerings as in the past.”

The district is also examining places where it can continue to make cuts. While the school might lose thirty kids overall, they may have only lost one or two per grade, or even gained some, so it can be tough to make broad cuts or reduce a class. However, the focus is on trying to find a way to make those adjustments in programming that could allow the district to make some reductions in staff without substantially changing program offerings.

Dr. Osborne does not foresee a large number of teacher cuts. “We’ll definitely have to consider some, and that will be coming up at our May school board meeting. We’re already in negotiations with our staff, and certainly we have to talk about salary and benefits.”

Everything is being given a serious look as far as budget considerations. “I’ve involved the staff in looking at where we can generate revenue and where we can make reductions. Certainly, all those things are on the table in discussing what makes sense for the district,” said Osborne.

Athletic cuts are also being studied, but no decisions have yet been made. Dr. Osborne commented that athletics do not make up a large part of the total school budget, only about $180,000, but that is still a significant number. Again, athletics have been cut several times over the past few years, and programs have only been able to maintain their quality by extensive use of unpaid volunteers and outside donations.

The May 3 bond issue

The bond issue vote planned for May 3 is a important factor in the financial plan of the district. If it passes, it frees up monies that would otherwise be spent on repairs and maintenance. “Using bussing for an example, we spend a lot of money on repairing and keeping our busses in good condition, and some of them are quite old. Obviously, with newer busses there will be less time and effort spent on those busses,” said Osborne. “With the maintenance of our buildings, our workers are spending a lot of time putting patches on roofs, and repairing heating and ventilation equipment. As those things are updated and replaced, we reduce expenses and free up staff time.”

The bond issue will be on the Hudson ballot on May 3. Voters in all of the Hudson School District will vote at the Hudson Fire Department Training Room on Railroad Street near Market Street.

There will be an informational event regarding the bond issue on Saturday, April 16, from 10 AM to 12 noon, starting at the high school. The community is encouraged to attend, and people participating will receive a building tour of the Hudson High School and Middle School, Lincoln Elementary and Thompson Field. People will be able to ask questions about the proposed work and see repairs that need to be made. The tour will meet at 10 AM at the entrance to Hudson Area High School.

The “Securing Hudson Area’s Future” committe, the group that is supporting the millage, will be a guest on WLEN’s Party Line at 11 AM on Saturday, April 23. Questions from the public will be taken.

The “Securing Hudson Area’s Future Committee” is a community based group that is organizing and developing a plan to presenet to the to the Hudson Area Board of Education supporting the bond proposal. The committee contines to meet with various local organizations and individuals in pursuit of the bond proposal.The intent is to be be able to provide details of the needed infrastructure work on the school facilities, says committee chairman Randy Darr.

“The work needed at the school is widespread, including boilers and new roofs, but also extending to many other things that have been allowed to deteroriate over the past few years with the tight school budgets the schools have been experincing,” Darr said. “One of the points we’re trying to make is that this proposal does not include any new construction — it entirely aimed at things that have not been able to to be done over the past few years.”

For more details, visit the committee’s website at http://www. securinghudsonareasfuture.com/ or contact Darr at (517) 204-5543.