State budget cuts concern Evart officials

EVART — The financial situation in Michigan is not good.

That’s an understatement.

While some analysts around the country point to a limited economic recovery over the past few months, that ‘recovery’ seems to be avoiding the State of Michigan.

Promises of decisive action aimed at getting Michigan back on firm fiscal ground earned Gov. Rick Snyder a job in Lansing.

Snyder is a Certified Public Accountant, so he looked at the books, evaluated the situation, and created a budget.

The budget now sits before the legislature awaiting approval.

Some say it’s a good budget — needed for the times.

Others say cuts have been made too deep, with too little thought about the consequences.

So public school administrators.

Snyder’s proposed cuts to K-12 public education are seen by some as part of the process, and by others as a virtual death knell for many school districts around the State of Michigan.

Evart Public Schools Superintendent Howard Hyde understands the governor needed to do something drastic with the state budget, but also realizes the proposed cut of some $470 per student in state funding to K-12 institutions will be devastating.

“Actually, folks need to understand that we will be losing closer to $700 in funding for each student, because of a scheduled increase in our retirement payments in the budget,” Hyde said.

“We have lost 368 students since the winter of 1996 — actually a few more than that number as a result of recent losses.

“If we had those students on the books today we would have almost $2.7 million in additional revenue.

“We don’t. They’re gone.

“Now, we’re facing some pretty heavy budget reductions as a result of the governor’s budgeting program.

“It’s going to be very, very tough.”

With a budget cut of $470 per pupil, and the additional loss of revenues as a result of increased retirement payouts creating a total of approximately $700 in reduced student funding, the Evart district faces a loss of $700,000 in revenue.

“We’re in very deep trouble,” Hyde said.

“That loss doesn’t reflect what our increase in insurance payments may be. This doesn’t reflect any increases to salaries. It doesn’t reflect on any increases in the price of fuel, heating and cooling, or electricity.

“There is certainly the potential out there for additional losses in funding that will seriously impact our programs.”

The loss in state student funding, in addition to other budgeting blows, could very well create a situation in which the Evart district sees its fund equity simply wiped out.

School planners may be going negative in their budgeting.

“I’ve never mentioned the words “pink slip” in my conversations before this time,” said the superintendent. “That phrase will become a reality in the coming future.”

Hyde pointed out that this past budget year, the Evart district had just over $370,000 in federal ARRA funding that was used to pay specific salaries.

That funding will not exist in the next budget cycle.

With that money “going away” the district could very well lose four certified staff and two para-professionals.

With all that, Evart’s district superintendent understands the state’s governor is in a tough position.

“I think the governor is taking his job very seriously,” he pointed out. “He has a state that is pretty deep in the hole.

“I understand what he is trying to do. I understand that if the state continues on the route it’s on, the financial issue will never go away.

“The problem is — this is pretty drastic and will have a crushing effect on public education.

“I wonder, as the governor and the team in Lansing work so hard at eliminating taxes — such as the small business tax — are we doing anything to replace that revenue flow? Making budget cuts and cutting spending does not create revenue. It just saves money, often on a one-time basis, but there isn’t necessarily any new money coming in.

“I don’t see any kind of a plan out there to create revenue.

“Public education is in serious trouble.

“No matter what the actual level of funding cut will be, we’re going to see districts going belly up.”