Ferndale Schools Reduces Teaching Staff
District will also dip into "rainy day fund" to prevent further cuts due to lower-than-anticipated enrollment.
The Ferndale Schools Board of Education on Monday voted to lay off two teachers, reduce one to part-time status and to dip into the district's rainy day fund to cover unanticipated budget shortfalls.
The decision comes in response to decreased revenues due to lower-than-anticipated enrollment, particularly at the new Digital Learning Center, which opened this fall, according to school officials.
Enrollment was down by about 449 students from this year's projections, resulting in a loss of state aid of approximately $3.5 million.
The layoffs are in addition to two staff modifications through attrition (not filling positions left open when an employee leaves), and reductions made in goods and services. The staff adjustments equate to about $150,000 in savings.
Even after these changes, a year-end balance of $1,404,172 was still anticipated. Board members voted to use the general fund to cover the difference.
Ferndale Schools has a fund balance (or "rainy day fund") of $4,677,220, leaving $3,273,048 in the fund in June 2013.
District finance director Maureen Adams said at the meeting that administration recommended using the fund balance because further cuts to staffing would be disruptive to district operations, including educational programs.
The teachers being laid off are a science teacher at the Digital Learning Center and a social studies teacher at the Digital Learning Center. A special education teacher at Ferndale High School and Coolidge Intermediate School is being reduced to part-time/60 percent status.
Written notice of layoff was to be provided to the teachers as soon as possible, with an effective date of 30 days from the date of notice.
Deputy Superintendent Henry Gold said during the meeting that the layoffs are "regrettable but necessary."
Superintendent Gary Meier said it's not in his nature to present a budget that is not balanced but said he believes using fund balance is needed in this case.
Meier said the lower enrollment at the Digital Learning Center "compounded the problem" but is not the only cause, also pointing out decreased state funding.
The district also lost nearly $735,000 in Federal Edu-Jobs funds this year and more than $200,000 in state Best Practices funding due to cuts in those allocations.
Adams said this year's budget also includes $510,169 in one-time purchases.
School board member Amy Butters said the finance committee was "very hesitant" to use the rainy day fund when they went over the budget amendments on Jan. 22. "This is a rainy day," she said.
She also acknowledged that while the positions that are not being filled due to attrition are not direct layoffs, it could create situations "that can be a hardship in certain departments" with redistributing additional work, she said.
"It's a difficult decision to make," school board president Jim O'Donnell said during the meeting.
O'Donnell said on Wednesday that the slower-than-anticipated start-up time at the Digital Learning Center was a large part of the gap, but he expects to see increased enrollment next year.
"Since Count Day ... we've seen some more stability in terms of the core students regularly participating there," he said. "We have that to build from whereas last fall it was starting over from zero."
Though it won't be enough to close the gap, O'Donnell said the final budget numbers are likely to be somewhat better than the amendment that was passed because of the potential for additional expense savings or revenue between now and June. "That's the trend," he said.
"We'll have to have a balanced budget for next year," O'Donnell said.
For more background on the budget amendment discussions, download the school board agenda packet here.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that two teachers have been laid off and a third teacher was reduced to part-time status.