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With time winding down before they have to file a deficit elimination plan, the Ypsilanti Public Schools Board of Trustees met Tuesday night for public input regarding proposed budget cuts.
If the board does not have a balanced budget in place for the 2009-2010 academic year by July 1, they will be obligated to file a deficit elimination plan with the state. The state can either accept or reject the plan. If it is accepted, YPS will be required to submit regular reports on its financial progress.
The district currently faces a projected deficit of $4,054,978. If the board approves all of the recommended cuts, a shortfall of $1,474,412 is still expected.
Superintendent Dr. James Hawkins does not believe the district will be able to completely eliminate the deficit by the end of the month.
“The board cannot reconcile this deficit by July 1,” Hawkins said, during his budget recommendations presentation, adding that with the decline of the Michigan economy, deficits will only get “deeper and more significant” in years to come.
“The situation is only going to get worse,” he later added.
Board President David Bates also indicated that the district would likely have to file a deficit elimination plan.
“We’re going to have a deficit—there’s no way around that,” Bates said. “But we have to minimize the problem.”
Included in the initial budget reductions were the elimination of middle school sports, the elimination of band and choir field trips, the elimination of piano classes at the high school and the elimination of five music, art or physical education teachers.
Several board members, as well as nearly all audience members who spoke, came out against eliminating these programs and positions.
“I really believe we ought to sidestep the cuts to classroom academic field trips and choir field trips,” Trustee Andrew Fanta said. “These are gifted and talented kids that are really going the extra mile.”
Trustee Kira Berman added that she felt sports and music were “motivating factors for young people in their love of learning” and the district could not afford to cut them if it wants to raise achievement.
Ypsilanti resident and parent Terry Heiss asked the board not to cut music programs from the budget. Heiss said his oldest son graduated from Ypsilanti High School 15 years ago and continues to find work in the music industry. He has another son who is a senior at YHS who wants to go into the music industry.
“The music program has had a strong impact on my family,” Heiss said.
Krista Boyer, who has five children in Ypsilanti schools asked the board not to cut programs that would broaden children’s horizons.
“My kids are diamonds and they do not deserve a Wal-Mart education,” Boyer said.
Debra Russo, who teaches music at Estabrook Elementary, told the board that by staying in one building, she has been better able to build a strong music program and assist students with other needs.
“I personally have been able to help students prepare for the MEAP,” Russo said.
There were a few notable bright spots for the district in Tuesday night’s budget proceedings. The board expects to bring in an additional 50 students next year, thereby increasing its revenue. Additionally, the state reversed a recent decision that disallowed districts from using Title 1 funds to pay for kindergarten teachers.
The board plans to vote on a 2009-2010 budget at a special meeting on June 29.