Jobs lost

Gwinn school board cuts positions; more budget reductions expected

LAUREN

GWINN — The Gwinn Area Community Schools Board of Education Thursday unanimously approved reducing fourth- and third-grade sections from four to three, thereby cutting two teachers.

The reductions save the district $65,709.

The board also OK’d cutting library services at a savings of $15,703. Other savings include a voluntary $5,000 salary reduction of Superintendent Tom Jayne’s salary, $91,900 in positions being covered by Michigan At-Risk funds and the pending resignation of a secretary for $34,000.

Combined with previous budget reductions this year, the district has cut $299,744, but it has a long way to go to solve its financial problems.

For the 2017-18 school year, the board has to cut about $550,000 to make up for overspending the previous year, when the board was given incorrect numbers on which it based its decisions.

JAYNE

Those numbers came from AJ Filizetti, then director of finance and human resources, who the board terminated in August because of what Jayne said at the time was “basically dereliction of duties, misfeasance and malfeasance of duties, not performing his duties as expected, not having our records and finances in the type of shape that we would wish at this time of year.”

In October the board hired the company Hiring Solutions LLC, based in downstate Okemos, to search for a new business manager.

Board President Ron Lauren pointed out the district also has to make up a negative fund balance of about $415,000; plus, the state wants the district to have a fund balance of 5 percent, which is another $550,000.

That means that within the next several years, the district will have to bring in revenue, attract more students or make cuts, he said.

“I just want everybody to realize that; that it’s something that’s going to have to happen, and if we would have gotten the right numbers last year, we would have probably been cutting 500 (thousand) to a million (dollars) starting last year,” Lauren said.

What had been also considered Thursday, although no action was taken, was cutting elementary and middle/high school music. At at special board meeting Oct. 24, however, many students and staff showed up in strong support of keeping such electives.

Trustee Dawn Andrews Thursday cautioned against cutting the music programs.

“We stood here two weeks ago and said we would not cut it,” Andrews said. “It’s not open for discussion, in my opinion.”

Trustee Ashley Jenema suggested each board member become knowledgeable in a specific area in the district.

“Then you’re going away from what a board is supposed to be,” Lauren said. “Unfortunately, a board is only supposed to set policy.”

Andrews asked: “We need to make huge decisions, and if we don’t know what’s going on in our district, how do we make these decisions?”

Lauren said the board should trust the people it hires.

“Well, that hasn’t worked out very well,” Andrews said.

Treasurer Dale Wedig said the board made decisions on bad numbers, and the situation escalated.

“We got a stepping stone to at least start with, and then as data comes in, we’ll have to further progress from there and have something pretty sound in the next month,” Wedig said.

Jayne said he hopes to determine who will be affected by the elementary staff reductions by Monday or Tuesday.

“I don’t want to make a mistake contractually, so I have to make sure we all do it as an administration correctly,” Jayne said.

After the meeting, Jayne said staff will voluntary pick up library services.

Wedig asked for the audience’s input for solutions to the financial situation.

“Anybody has any open, positive ideas, send them on through,” Wedig said.

The board is expected to look at more budget reductions at its regular meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Gwinn Middle/High School Library.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.