MARQUETTE - In an effort to cut its budget by roughly $2.5 million, the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education got its first look MOnday at a budget reduction plan that would eliminate at least 8.8 full time equivalent teachers and three paraprofessionals.
"Every district in the state is being faced with a similar task and we're also being faced with the issue of declining enrollment," Superintendent Deb Veiht said during her and Assistant Superintendent for Finance Deb Barry's budget presentation. "Well, we pretty much leveled off. We're not experiencing the big jumps like we did in the past, but with both of those together, we have to face some tough challenges."
The plan was the culmination of efforts between central administration and building administrators throughout the district seeking to find ways to save money.
Jayme Bell, negotiating chairwoman of the Marquette Area Education Association, speaks on behalf of the teachers union during public comment as fellow teachers look on. She implored the board to keep young teachers in mind, as new legislation provides less compensation and benefits for new teachers. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Both Veiht and Barry broke down the reduction plan for the board, showing where cuts came from and why.
The recommended plan includes:
Both administrators also clarified some common public school funding misconceptions, specifically dealing with the potential privatization of Marquette General Health System and the Brownfield sites.
"These are both good things for our city and for our area," Veiht said. "However, it will not change our funding."
Every year, the state allocates a per pupil foundation allowance to public school districts. Though the funding is often called "state aid" it is actually a combination of local tax revenue and state funding.
The state only provides school districts with the difference between local revenue sources and the allocated state aid amount - which is $6,846 for the current school year. This means that if local tax revenue goes up, state aid will decrease.
All told, the plan presented by Veiht and Barry still leaves an additional $309,179 needed in cuts.
To realize those cuts, Veiht and Barry presented the board with several options, including the possibility of cutting an additional 5.2 teacher FTEs, which would increase class sizes even further; placing a hard cap on employee insurance, though that decision cannot be made until current negotiations with the unions are completed; closing the district's pool and planetarium, cutting another 10 percent from extracurricular actives and dropping another 3.2 teacher FTEs; or waiting to see if the state passes Senate Bill 1040, which would provide a huge incentive for teachers to retire sooner rather than later.
Veiht estimated that roughly half the district's teaching staff would be eligible to retire under the proposed legislation, and that at least eight people probably would, providing the district with the needed $300,000 as young teachers are typically paid less than older ones.
"We're watching the plan, almost daily we're getting updates. It keeps changing a little bit," Veiht said. "Unfortunately, I think with this plan, rather than giving you an incentive to retire, it's giving you a disincentive in that if you don't go, you'll receive less in your retirement package."
Monday's presentation was the full board's first look at all the cuts the administration has found. No decisions were made during the meeting, and the plan was not voted on by the board.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.