By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — Hard times continue for struggling school districts in Michigan. The Trenton Public Schools Board of Education’s 2011-12 budget approved Monday resulted in hard choices and unpopular decisions.
In the case of suspending school bus services, district priorities were questioned during a public hearing prior to the budget approval. Board members approved a $250,000 demolition of the William C. Taylor Elementary School – now used only for day-care programs – yet cancelled general education transportation, an expense estimated at $400,000.
Suggestions for restoring bus service include the possibility of selling or leasing the Taylor Elementary School building, an option that may still be open.
“There were a lot of comments between board members which will continue,” Business Manager Gail Farrell said. “They are not opposed at looking at other options if they can find someone to rent or buy the building.”
The budget echoes a similar pattern throughout the state, as 43 of Michigan’s 800-plus school districts wrestled with hard decisions. It is against state law for districts to submit a deficit budget, and failure to approve a balanced spreadsheet could allow takeover by the state’s Emergency Financial Management.
The school district, with a projected June 2012 fund balance of $655,393, was able to avoid that situation. Farrell said that an audit of the current financial year, which ends June 30, will be finalized by September, at which time it may be determined that additional funds are available to potentially restore bus service.
“The board assured the public that it is a priority to try and reinstate that if funds became available,” Farrell said.
The news for the district has not been all bad. Last month four laid-off teachers and a behavioral specialist were reinstated and it was announced that the swimming pool at Boyd W. Arthurs Middle School would remain open.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])