By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — Officials in the Southgate Community School District are hoping to build on recent salary concessions made by teachers on the way to further cuts to avoid a budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.
Last month the United Teachers of Southgate union agreed to a 1 percent salary concession that Supt. David Peden said will save his 5,500-student district about $250,000.
“The teachers can sense that there is no money, not just in Southgate, but in all school districts, and wanted to help the district,” he said, adding that the two sides started talking just before the holidays and came to an agreement in a relatively short time.
Increases under the previous salary schedule that would have cost about $650,000 now are down to about $400,000.
Discussions last week and at a meeting on Tuesday focused on how to eliminate an additional projected $850,000 deficit from next year’s approximately $47 million budget. Areas that could see budget cuts include paraprofessionals, custodial and maintenance, capital improvements, transportation, closing a pool and cutting seventh-grade athletics.
Loss of students, teacher raises and health care cost increases are among the biggest reasons for the projected deficit. Officials already have formed a joint committee comprising members of employee groups to look at other insurance products in an effort to reduce health care costs.
Peden described the most recent discussions as “good” and said officials will meet soon with union leaders to flesh out further details. The $850,000 amount is a working figure, he said, and that the actual deficit could be higher or lower depending on several factors, including how much the district receives through the U.S. Recovery and Reinvestment Act and final student counts.
“As we get to April and May those things will really take shape, Peden said. “It’s all going to depend on how many kids arrive in the fall.”
While no one likes making budget cuts, he said, Southgate is in a better position budgetwise than other area districts facing far bigger deficits, such as neighboring Wyandotte, which is looking at about $3 million.
“Compared to districts around us, ($850,000) it isn’t too bad,” Peden said.