District says bond projects will help cut future expenses

IMLAY CITY — On Monday, school board members took action to lay off three teachers, eliminate two instructional aide positions and reduce the hours of a middle school counselor in anticipation of a state funding cut for the 2020-2021 school year. Even with those and additional budget reductions, the district anticipates using more than $1 million in savings to cover a revenue shortfall in their 2020-2021 budget.

“These decisions are difficult ones to make,” Supt. Dr. Stu Cameron said.

The budget assumes Imlay City Schools will see $770 less per pupil in state aid due to a steep decrease in tax revenues from business closures during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, fewer dollars will be coming in the form of state and federal grants and they anticipate their student count to decrease by about 30 in the new school year.

The school board met remotely on Monday to approve the 2020-2021 school year budget that calls for teacher layoffs and other staff reductions.


The district’s Director of Business Services, Amy Swantek, said revenue decreases in the budget amount to $2.58 million but the district can offset some of those losses with $989,400 in cuts to expenses. The biggest savings will come from the staffing cuts ($347,000) but district leaders credit the Nov. 2019 bond passage and associated projects for helping cut additional costs. Swantek said the purchase of new, more efficient buses means they’ll spend less on fuel, parts and other transportation supplies and the installation of new boiler systems this summer should result in savings on their utility bills. The district cut the general fund’s technology budget by more than $53,000 saying they can cover that gap with bond dollars.

All employee groups recently agreed to one-year contracts with no wage increases.

“Our employees are making sacrifices to ensure we can offer best quality programming under difficult circumstances,” Cameron said.
Board member Dr. Rev. Marcel Lamb concurred. “Everyone has rolled up their sleeves at every level.”

The district’s fund balance is expected to stand at $2.6 million or 12 percent at the close of the current 2019-2020 budget. After covering the ’20-21 shortfall, it’s projected to total about seven percent but will most likely be closer to 10 percent when figuring in historical spending models.

In a related matter, the board also took steps to borrow money in anticipation of cash flow issues. Swantek said that if the state opts to prorate per pupil funding in the ’19-20 budget, plus cut future payments by at least $770 per student, Imlay City Schools would not be able to make payroll come January 2021 in a “worse case scenario.” Swantek said they have the option of borrowing from local banks or a state-level pool of districts. The board approved a resolution on Monday that allows them to seek bids from banks.

Although it’s still not certain how the pandemic will affect student learning in the fall, the board approved the purchase of 1,060 Chromebook laptops and associated licensing at a cost of $244,860 using bond dollars. Board President Sharon Muir said acquiring the new technology is one important step the district needs to take if distance learning is required. The purchase will allow for every student, K-12, to have access to a computer.

“We are grateful citizens passed the bond measure. This purchase would have been very difficult otherwise,” Muir said.

Those teachers laid off include Christy Diamond, Mike Demas and Trisha Niemi. Marianne Naas is the Middle School counselor who will see her position reduced to part-time. Also among the cuts is the reduction of one high school teaching position due to the retirement of Cheryl Beebe.