Baraga board OKs budget

BARAGA – An unusual sequence of events added a layer of intrigue to Tuesday’s special Baraga Area Schools Board of Education meeting, eight days after a 3-3 school board vote created the need for the special budget-approval meeting.

Ultimately, though, the board unanimously approved the 2013-14 general fund, debt retirement, athletic and lunch fund budget proposals as presented by district administration.

Trustees Bill Jondreau and Ralph Sackett, both of whom voted against the June 17 budget proposal, were absent at the start of the meeting due to unexpected work obligations at Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility. Accordingly, the board had the quorum necessary to start the meeting, but not the required full attendance to tackle agenda item No. 1: interviewing and appointing a seventh board member – who could potentially have been the deciding vote – to replace Tracey Barrett, who resigned at the June 17 meeting.

The board member appointment was then moved further down the agenda, below budget approval. Superintendent Jennifer Lynn proceeded to explain the budget adjustments made since June 17.

Projected expenditures were reduced from $5,188,922 to $5,141,504, and anticipated revenue increased slightly from $4,832,820 to $4,842,666 – a net change of $57,264. The projected 2013-14 deficit on the preliminary budget is $298,838, down from the $356,102 at the June 17 meeting. With the change, the estimated fund balance at the end of the 2013-14 year would be $947,826.

“With this proposed budget, we would be projecting a fund balance that would be about 18 percent of our expenditures, which is considered relatively healthy in the education budgeting world,” Lynn said during the meeting. “It gives us some room to make adjustments.”

Lynn stressed amendments are made throughout the school year, and even as approved, the budget is a “working document.” During the last fiscal year, for example, the initial projected deficit on June 18, 2012, was proposed to be $397,293, but it was trimmed to $77,364.

“We were able to reduce it quite substantially and the same kinds of mindfulness pieces would be used this year,” she said.

As Lynn was describing the budget adjustments during the meeting, Sackett arrived, and he, along with Bill Stark, the other trustee who had voted against the June 17 proposal, voiced their support for the updated budget.

“I appreciate all the hard work that Jennifer and the finance committee have done,” Stark said.

The separate votes on each of the four budgets was 5-0 in favor of the budget. Jondreau arrived after the budget had been approved.

Among the anticipated expenditure reductions is defaulting to the health care act requirement, which takes effect July 1. Because contract negotiations are still ongoing, that could change, but for now it will default to the state cap.

Freshman girls’ basketball has also been eliminated, mostly based on low projected turnout numbers. If interest was revived, a volunteer coach could come on board.

Lynn noted the total effect of outmigration (combination of large graduating class, small projected kindergarten class and students leaving the district) is $474,332. Total expected revenue is reduced from $5,214,706 last year to $4,842,666 this year.

“That’s kind of putting this in context of what the challenge is,” Lynn said during the meeting. “… As we’re addressing these rather rapid declines, we want to be mindful as far as our programs and making sure that we’re trying to keep the healthiest most balanced programs for students that we can.”

Later in the meeting, the board interviewed and unanimously approved appointing Sarah Maki as a new trustee.

She has been the assistant chief executive officer for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community for almost 10 years. She has three children in the district now, and has previously been a teacher.

“I have a math degree (from Michigan Technological University), I have lots of kids that have gone through this school system, I grew up in this area, I have budgeting experience, I have administration experience, I work with the tribal council continuously,” she said during her public interview. “I’m just very vested in the community.”

Also during Tuesday’s special meeting, the board:

approved naming Eric DeMink new varsity football coach.

approved coaching assignments for all fall/winter sports.

approved having a game site supervisor, a designated person who would oversee home athletic events only in the event that neither the athletic director nor the two administrators are available to cover events due to “a combination of illness, other district obligations or professional development.”

acknowledged its next regular meeting as 7 p.m. July 22 in the Baraga High School Library.