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Rochester School Leaders Will Reveal Potential Budget Cuts Tonight

The district is facing a $10.8 million deficit; privatizing custodians, bus drivers and accepting school-of-choice students are possible remedies.

The will hear tonight about potential solutions to a projected budget shortfall next school year. 

The district is facing a $10.8 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year.

The budget projection assumes savings from about 60 teacher retirements and savings from employees now contributing 20 percent for health insurance. It also assumes additional costs that will accompany the district's change to all-day kindergarten.

The district's fund balance is $23.5 million.

Board members have asked for possible budget cuts that would absorb $3.5 million to $6.1 million of the deficit; the rest would be taken from the fund balance.

Daniel Romzek, the district's assistant superintendent for business, will present a detailed look at the budget at tonight's board meeting. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public in the

Among the potential cuts:

  • Contracting transportation services (or saving through collective bargaining) would save $1.3 million.
  • Contracting custodial services (or saving through collective bargaining) would save $1.6 million.
  • Allowing about 100 school-of-choice students would generate $816,800.
  • Cuts to learning consultant program would save $1.4 million.
  • Cuts to the media specialists program would save $802,146.

Other possibilities: cuts to para-educators, cutting five teaching positions, reducing clerical staff and the elimination of middle school athletics.

Details of the presentation can be seen in the Agenda Packet PDF file attached to this story.

Also tonight, the board will hear an "Academic Spotlight" presentation from 's media specialist and third-graders.

Ivy March 26, 2012 at 02:54 PM
GM just eliminated pensions. I think it is time for the government to start eliminating pensions. Soon it will just be government employees with pensions that are paid for by people that do have pensions.
Henry Schultz March 26, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I understand the arguements on both sides for privatization. The one that stands out to me the most against privitizing the jobs in our schools is the safety issue. I happened to be talking to a custodian in the Utica schools on his last day before being privitized. He was saying that the new company was busing in people daily to do the job. I don't think I would like that in our schools. I feel better knowing that the custodians have an investment in their job.
Joshua Raymond March 26, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Henry, my understanding from the last meeting was that most of the custodians and other employees would be retained from RCS, so they would be the same people and would be consistently at the same building. One reason some would not be retained is that the screening by the private companies is more intensive. I believe the example used was regarding bus drivers and DUIs. A bus driver hired by RCS prior to screening for DUIs may be currently employed by the district but not eligible for hire by the private company. However, I may not correctly remember the exact statements made by the board and administration. The last meeting can be viewed online if you wanted to see exactly what their statements were.
Henry Schultz March 26, 2012 at 06:15 PM
You are making a big assumption that they would want to stay or be able to stay with a reduced wage and basically no benefits. My point is that I would prefer having someone that is committed to staying in their job and values it over someone that is making a minimal salary while waiting for a better opportunity.
Joshua Raymond March 26, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Henry, I suggest you read the Board Packet at http://media.rochester.k12.mi.us/download/138092?token=OCaRojCyVwc%3d starting on p. 46 for further information. Driver wages are $18.60 per hour and bus aide wages are $13.36 per hour for current RCS employees and includes 70/30 medical plan and 401(k) with company match. Custodial wages are $10.50-$12 per hour and grounds wages are $10.50 to $16 per hour. It also includes 70/30 medical plan and 401(k) with company match. I don't know what current school and private sector rates are for these jobs, so I don't know if employees will leave for other positions. I encourage all workers to find employment that maximizes their wages and benefits, tangible and intangible. Expenses for RCS must be reduced. There really isn't a way around that. About 84% of RCS expenses are wages and benefits. The vast majority of those expenses are teacher wages and benefits. (IIRC, it is about 80%) Keeping those at the same level will crowd out wages and benefits for the non-educational staff as well as other non-personnel expenses. And that is what is happening now. 1/3 of the $162m budget is absorbing an $11m deficit. To keep our fund balance steady would require about a 21% cut in the those areas. Some are fixed costs and simply can't be reduced, so there will be incredible pressure on non-fixed costs, which means non-instructional staff will have their wages, benefits, and positions cut. I don't like this, but that is the reality.
Marie T March 26, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Cafeteria was outsourced. It was a MEA unit, so your statement is false.
Marie T March 26, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Another reason it is important that the new company rehire them (or offer to rehire them) is so that RCS is not needing to pay unemployment to them. If the new company doesn't ask to rehire them, then they have lost their job so they are able to apply for unemployment.
dk March 26, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Another lie. We do not spend more than any other country. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/edu_spe_per_sec_sch_stu-spending-per-secondary-school-student European schools do not have responsibility for anything but educating kids, and their elementary schools have no principals. The teachers run them - now there's a savings. Or maybe we could put all the kids in jail. Then we could spend 38K on each of them. Or maybe we could elect them to a State office. Michigan has the second highest paid state legislators in the country - CA is first and NY is THIRD - but I don't see any of those "small government" types cutting their salaries.
dk March 26, 2012 at 09:15 PM
No Joshua. They wouldn't be retained. They would be offered the opportunity to apply and interview for their jobs at half the salary and benefits.
dk March 26, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Certainly. Nobody deserves a pension. We need more tax cuts for corporations and the .05% instead. All those people making a whopping 50K a year before taxes deserve to have the wages cut and lose their pensions and health care. When people get old, you can just put them on welfare or perhaps you'd prefer an ice floe. And when their kids can't go to college and end up on welfare or in jail, you can pay for that too. It is amazing how stingy, resentful, and small minded some people can be.
Marie T March 26, 2012 at 09:21 PM
It is only the reality because the Legislature is intent on making education a business. Please check out how much Oakland County private school tution has gone up in the last 10 years, then compare how much public school funding has decreased. Unless you are wealthy, you will not be able to receive a quality education in the future. Public school parents should be standing up for their students!
dk March 26, 2012 at 09:44 PM
School principals, superintendents and other administrators can move to new jobs in new districts and get paid a competitive wage. Teachers are stuck and not allowed to compete for a competitive wage. Schools are in cahoots and will only hire teachers at the entry level wage - regardless of experience, skills, or accomplishments. Apparently what's good for administrators isn't OK for teachers. Give the radical extremists in Lansing another day or two, and Rochester can bus in teachers along with the custodians. I can't believe this community is sitting back and letting the yahoos in Lansing keep their high wages by taking money away from our kids and our teachers.
Grandma March 26, 2012 at 09:50 PM
•Allowing about 100 school-of-choice students would generate $816,800. •Cuts to learning consultant program would save $1.4 million. •Cuts to the media specialists program would save $802,146. What about these other issues. If the district is going to add 100 school-of-choice students, how can they think about cutting learning consultants, media specialists, para pros or teachers. I have 3 grandchildren attending Rochester schools and everyone of their classes are already overcrowded. Two of them are special needs. They require additional resources in order for them to keep up with their peers. Also, kindergarten will be nightmare because if you take the 1/2 day classes and stretch them to full day classes, where are they going to put all of the kids? I don't really have a solution but I am thinking that maybe if residents paid an additional $50 per year to support the schools, it may cut the shortage dramatically. This would be per household not just homeowners -- renters would need to be included also. In order to keep RCS alive and well, it may be worth it.
dk March 26, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I'm a grandma too, and I'm with you. If we can pay 38K per year to warehouse a prisoner, we can sure afford to pay 10K to educate our kids. Imagine the education they would have if we spend 38K on each kid. Soon, only the very much will be able to afford a quality education or college for their kids. Roeper chargers 10K per year for lower elementary. The higher the grade, the higher the tuition.
mary clark March 27, 2012 at 12:54 AM
I would like to know why RCS is spending over $35,000 on a new online registration system for 2 departments. The systems they are now using, may be old, but they are working. Why spend money when there are talks of layoffs and outsourcing? District employees are losing their homes. I am disappointed with RCS.
Henry Schultz March 27, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Joshua, Teachers salary and benefits do not approach 80% of the schools budget. It is more like 55%. Why is it shocking to people that the vast majority of a schools budget goes to salary and benefits? You say it like Rochester is the only district where that is the case. Teachers have agreed to reduced contracts through the last 3 negotiations. Walking into this one we, yes we, will already be taking on about 15% more of our insurance premium that our state has decided we don't deserve the ability to negotiate for. The tone of your last entry suggests that we should shoulder the burden for this number that board has brought forth. It is easy for the public to accept this number and easier for you to suggest that we make it go away. I don't accept it. I don't accept the state taking away our rights to negotiate and I will not quitely go away with a pay cut so you don't have to see an ugly fight in your community.
Joshua Raymond March 27, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Henry, I believe you misread my comment. 84% of RCS expenses are wages and benefits. The 80% was of that 84%, so about 67%. I may have not remembered the 80% correctly. Whatever the number it is, it still makes up the majority of RCS expenses and it will be near impossible to balance the budget without concessions from the teachers. I don't like it, but the money has to come from somewhere. Otherwise, we quickly get to an emergency financial manager and the concessions from everyone will be much greater. While I don't want to see an ugly fight, eventually it is going to come down to one group of employees vs. another. The Board can only cut so many expenses from areas other than salary and benefits. I've already talked with Blue Group employees who are resentful about concessions they have made compared to other groups. These concessions are very typical for the private sector. Many community members have had 10-20% pay cuts. Most have not have wage increases for a number of years. Very few have pensions or only have to pay 5% of their health insurance. I don't expect anyone to be happy about it. I haven't been happy with what the economy has done to my wages and benefits. It rather sucked. Henry, what are your suggestions to balance the budget given the options that the Board of Education has before them?
Kristen Famiano March 27, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Every year around this time, we hear there is money....then every year around December we hear that it wasn't as bad as projected. We cannot and should not balance the budget on the backs of the employees. We should stop playing games with numbers and report the budget accurately. Employees have to pay 20% of the premium already, so there should be more money than the year before already. Our legislators need to start attacking the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. There is no reason health care to cost what it does. Instead...they go after the hard working people who work with our children. See you again next year for the same conversation.
Marty Rosalik March 28, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Joshua: I don't know about you but I won't take responsibility for up to 66 children on a bus for $18.60 per hour let alone half of that! Next, unless minimum wage is lowered, custodians can't take too much more of a cut.
dk March 28, 2012 at 09:31 AM
$18.60 and the job is part-time. What do they get? 4 hours a day, maybe?
Marie T March 28, 2012 at 10:53 PM
I would like to know why RCS is spending over $117,000 each on 2 Curriculum Directors (K-7 and 8-12). They used to have one person working K-12. I believe it was a cost savings to go to one person only when they were cutting a few years ago.
Marie T March 28, 2012 at 10:58 PM
IPads for Kindergarten classrooms and principals. Last year's budget turned out not as bad as the administration thought, so they put 2.7 million dollars back into the Fund Balance. It could have saved the media assistant positions and the para-educators' reorganization.
Ron Harman March 30, 2012 at 05:42 PM
ADMINISTRATION COSTS, FOR WHAT THEY PROVIDE?, ARE TOTALLY USELESS. GET RID OF THE USELESS ADMINISTRATORS!!!
Lynn R. March 30, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Well said!! Also, let's start at the top within the district. If those who are making the big bucks would also make sacrifices like the rest of us maybe they could balance the budget!!
Gary Elliott April 03, 2012 at 12:45 AM
In privatizing the current positions did they not notice that the same companies will privatize the Director that overseas our current grounds & maintenance and custodial staff for as much as HALF of the cost (current salary is $147,000.00 plus nice benefit package and GCS will do it for 60 to $70,000.00 with crappy benefits). So, I ask why didn't the board include his position? Why is this person spear heading this campaign and making these kinds of decisions. Shouldn't Human Resources or Superintendents Office be spear heading this massacre and making these big decision with some input from him? Not just giving him the full reigns. Past Superintendent said we were lean at the top...according to who? Not by real statistics. The district PAID a consultant to come up with that. It is time the board woke up and realized they are not making a very good educated decision here. It is not working in areas where quality is already as high as RCS work quality. I urge every resident/taxpayer to email ALL of your Board Members and tell them YOU DO NOT want privatization in your community schools. It never was put on a ballot...why? Because it wouldn't pass. I really think the majority of the residents would much rather pay a small millage increase and keep their children SAFE and their schools clean and and have competent bus drivers. Do not believe the BS about retaining employees by the new companies either.
Gary Elliott April 03, 2012 at 12:50 AM
"Cafeteria was outsourced. It was a MEA unit" I wanted to comment on this statement as well. Know that our Cafeteria Staff and the Troy Schools staff were part of the MEA and I believe was sold out by the MEA. I feel they let these people go to make negotiating for teachers easier. Nothing against teachers but that is what I think happened. MEA scratched the districts back and district scratched MEA's back.. You think? Also, look at what Board Members in either district was supported by and their campaign supported by.
Gary Elliott April 03, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I sense resentment in your comment. I am vested and want my pension when I leave. Just as others do. If you want to change the law make sure it is for new hires and your State Representatives and the upper government. Because they generally write themselves exempt from these bills.
Gary Elliott April 03, 2012 at 01:02 AM
They are not going to rehire very many, if any. If they hire 51% of the previous staff they then have the right to unionize and they don't want that. So, don't let the Board and the others lead you to believe this BS.
Gary Elliott April 03, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Why is the district (Superintendent and Board) putting the burden of a 12 millions deficit on ONE group? Because they know they will wimper to the MEA! The district just put on a district wide Anti-Bully Campaign and had all employees attend it. So, why can the district bully the weaker groups and kiss up to the bigger and stronger unions? Because they can bully but no one else can.
SS April 11, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Oh Dear Henry, what you all do not realize is GCA will be interviewing pre-selected RCS employees and only a small, very small will be hired. RCS administrators and GCA have done their homework well. RCS has every intention of paying as little as possible if any unemployment, or anything else! One of the administrators asked for a report regarding the unemployment cost to the district and was totally floored! Not a pretty picture. Sorry for the secretivness but i fear retribution and i love working for my school. There is so much the public is unaware of. Privitization is sooooooo not the way to go.

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