GACS budget answers

District decision makers closer to resolution

GWINN — Things might be looking up for Gwinn Area Community Schools.

Although the GACS Board of Education took no official action Tuesday regarding its budget, Superintendent Tom Jayne said the district has come up with a preliminary savings of about $411,000 from the general fund, with roughly $100,000 more expected, to address its financial woes.

Because of overspending the previous school year, the district had to find a way to cut between $500,000 and $600,000 for the 2017-18 school year.

With the board tabling action on budget reductions, it’s expected to finalize fiscal numbers at its Dec. 18 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Gwinn Middle/High School Library.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Jayne said the savings were ultimately realized — with no teacher layoffs planned — “with a great deal of work” behind the scenes, cooperation and input from staff and community members.

“We were fortunate to get some additional revenue this year in our Title 1 and at-risk funds, as most districts did,” Jayne said.

Also contributing to the savings, he said, was freezing line items and purchases unless they were absolutely needed.

Part of the plan too is creating a combination class of second and third grades at Sawyer Elementary School, which doesn’t involve moving students to a new building, Jayne said.

There currently are two sections of second grade and two sections of third grade at the school. The plan calls for one section each of second and third grade, as well as the combination class, which he said eliminates one teacher position. However, instead of cutting that position, the teacher will become a literacy coach, a move that shifts general fund money to a one-time grant fund for a savings of $51,000 the second semester.

Jayne, whose effective date of retirement is Feb. 15, is moving to an administrative role as transition team facilitator with the district’s business team effective today and continuing through Feb. 15.

Sandra Petrovich, Gwinn Middle/High School principal, is taking over as superintendent, also effective today.

The district’s business team continues to look over line items to come up with “true numbers,” said Jayne, who noted he will help the team achieve more savings that hopefully will result in fewer reductions and build up revenue to get the district back to a healthy 5 percent fund equity.

The district used various means to get numbers under control, at least for now.

“We were able to pull it off by the old recipe of hard work, diligence, pulling out every resource we can, moving people into other positions and using other funds to fund those,” Jayne said.

During the meeting, Trustee Roger Stein brought up the possibility of reducing administration pay and adding motion sensors to save the district more money. He also wanted to delay any action regarding changing bus routes or outsourcing custodial staff until the summer, which had been discussed at previous board meetings.

“We need to get those numbers straight, and if we’re thinking about outsourcing, we have to have the facts,” Stein said.

Board President Ashley Jenema read a statement from the district about recent actions to stabilize the budget, but added her own thoughts regarding Jayne’s moving into a new role within the district.

“There are not many people in the world who you could ask to move into a different position in a situation like this, and he comes at this with grace and all of the fine character that you would need to, you know, help us get through this and make this transition smooth,” Jenema said.

Jenema also said district plans include hiring a permanent business manager, developing and adopting a final 2017-18 budget, and developing a five-year phased-in plan to eliminate budget shortfalls to establish a financially stable district.

The board Tuesday approved the appointment of John Waldo of Skandia Township as a trustee for one year. An opening on the board became available after former Board President Ron Lauren resigned in November, with then-trustee Jenema taking the position of president.

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