L’Anse district cuts $632K, but still $206K in the red

L’ANSE – The L’Anse Area Schools Board of Education approved Monday a 2013-14 budget proposal calling for $631,902 in general fund cuts, but which will still be $206,205 in the red.

The district has reduced expenditures from $7,133,806 in the final 2012-13 budget (for which a final amendment was approved Monday) to $6,501,904, but with only $6,295,699 in projected revenue, the district will continue to chip into its dwindling fund balance.

The fund balance was $909,719 on June 30, 2012, and after $508,796 in deficit spending last year, the anticipated balance for June 30 this year is $400,923. After the projected 2013-14 deficit, the fund balance is projected to be $194,718 on June 30, 2014.

“This budget has been one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had in 14 years as superintendent,” Ray Pasquali, who was at his final school board meeting Monday, said during the meeting. “With the projected $700,000-plus deficit that we had for the original estimate for the budget, we’ve been able to cut nearly $600,000 from the budget. We anticipate with the ongoing issues maybe even more than that. A projected lay-off of net zero, we’re pretty proud with what we’ve been able to do.”

The district has made more than 30 changes in personnel in terms of moves, reductions and transfers, without laying off any people.

“It’s still painful, and it’s still going to require us to tighten our belts in some areas,” said Pasquali, who will officially retire June 30 before current Junior/Senior High School Principal Carrie Meyer takes over July 1. “Given what we have for revenues, this was the best we could do. We put a lot of work into it.”

Revenue has dropped from $6,625,010 last year to $6,295,699 in projections for 2013-14, including a $208,205 reduction in federal revenue as a result of loss in impact aid, grant funding and sequestration.

Of the 16 line items listed under the district’s expenditures, 12 will see reductions in 2013-14, all of at least $10,000.

Among the largest reductions include $94,391 in instruction through attrition; $60,819 in transportation – including eliminating one bus route each in Laird and Covington townships; and $29,078 to athletics.

Funding for coaches in middle school sports and varsity golf, cross country and cheerleading has been eliminated. The district hopes to secure volunteer coaches. Busing funding has still been allocated for those sports. A total of $262,306 in outgoing transfers and other transactions is factored in, including $250,000 to the capital projects fund.

“We’re going to have to continue to make more drastic cuts in the future, definitely,” Meyer said in a Daily Mining Gazette interview after the meeting.

Also with its budget Monday, the board approved a debt retirement fund that includes $577,635 in expected revenue and $611,788 in expected expenditures. The resulting deficit would reduce the fund balance to $144,508 on June 30, 2014.

The fund balance for the capital projects fund, following the transfer from the general fund, is expected to be $250,000, which includes $200,000 in the final year of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for the park project/sports complex.

The school service fund, which includes ticket sales in revenue and food supplies and services in expenditures, anticipates a fund balance of $23,888 on June 30, 2014 after a $15,555 deficit in the coming year.

Also associated with the budget, the board approved a resolution “to certify millage to be spread by the district to include the levy of 18 mills on all non-(Principal Residence Exemption) parcels within the district boundaries for operational purposes, and four mills on all property within the district boundaries for the purpose of bond indebtedness.”

The debt retirement millage was 4.3 mills last year, and it started at seven mills.

“That will be a savings for the taxpayers in the district starting with the 2013-14 fiscal year,” Business Manager Laura Mathieu said.

In other action Monday, the board:

approved several new and revised policies, as advised by regional district support organization NEOLA.

approved corporate authorization resolutions provided by Superior National Bank & Trust, effective July 1.

approved a two-year contract for Melissa Scroggs as Junior/Senior High School principal. She will replace Meyer on July 1 as Meyer replaces Pasquali as superintendent.

approved the hiring of Joanne Hochstein as an administrative assistant.

announced board member Patricia Loosemore would be resigning as a board member at the end of June after 10 years serving the district. A plan for replacing her is in the works.

heard from Meyer that the state’s 22.i Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant will fund professional development for technology coaches as the district continues to implement its one-to-one initiative. Through the initiative, high school students will now receive in the future Google Chromebooks, which have better word processing capacities than the ASUS Transformer tablets that will be used by elementary students.