Dear Northview Parents, Community Members, Students, and Staff,
Media outlets have run numerous stories related to Governor Snyder’s proposed budget for the State of Michigan. The headline usually references a “Shared Sacrifice.” The proposed cut of $470 per student to K-12 education is beyond a shared sacrifice. Specifically, Northview will have $1,600,000 less to operate our instructional programs and co-curricular programs next year. This is the “best case” scenario. The “worst case” scenario is a $3,200,000 reduction.
Prior to the Governor’s proposal and tax restructuring, the School Aid Fund (SAF) had a projected balance of $600M. This balance, called a “surplus” by the Governor, was created by reducing the per pupil allocation during the middle of last school year by $170 per student. This meant that Northview had $951,350 cut from its operational budget six months after the budget year began. The Governor’s proposal raids the SAF and gives $196M to community colleges and $700M to the universities. Due to this reallocation the SAF will be in a deficit position.
The Governor is proposing to offset this deficit in the SAF by reducing the K-12 foundation allowance by $300. This is in addition to the $170 per student reduction last year or a total of $470 per student less ($1.6M less for Northview). Put in even more simple terms, this means a reduction of up to 25 employees in our school district.
Over the past four years we have made substantial cuts in our operating expenses. We have reduced over 40 positions in the school district. We have had reasonable contract settlements with our employee associations. Last year our employees agreed to a pay freeze and paid approximately 6% toward their health care coverage. These two steps saved our district $562,762. We modified the high school block schedule which resulted in the reduction of 5 teaching positions for a savings of approximately $400,000 in salary and benefits. We had over $1M in savings due to retirement of veteran staff and the hiring of new, less expensive staff. Simply stated – we have prepared for a downturn in the economy and have been able to provide a high quality learning experience for our students.
The facts listed above are reflective of just some of the implications of the proposed budget cuts outlined by Governor Snyder. We are facing $1.6M in additional cuts to Northview next school year after making significant cuts in the past four years. Many of you already know that this level of cuts would result in the elimination of programs and the reduction of staff members that have made a positive impact on the children of this community.
We continue to be among the top four districts in Kent County in student academic performance. We are conservative, lean, and efficient with our budget allocations. I can assure you, we will not remain this way with the level of budget cuts being proposed. There is simply no way to cut any more and continue at a high level of performance. As an example: The State of Michigan requires that students have 18 credits in the core subjects to receive a diploma. This is called “the most rigorous set of graduation standards in the nation.” Northview requires 29 total credits for a diploma. Cutting 20 teachers from the high school would allow us to only offer the 18 credits required by the State of Michigan.
The problem is structural. Proposition “A” was passed in 1994, which significantly lowered property taxes but also hampered local school districts to pass operating millages for our schools. The promise made with Proposition “A” was that the K-12 education system would get all of the School Aid Funds. The Governor’s proposal gives $896M from the SAF to community colleges and universities – two organizations who can raise tuition to increase operating revenue.
This is a “call to action” for all of us. This is a wake up call. It is not someone else’s problem. I am asking you to write, email, and call your State Representative and State Senator. Share the impact of the proposed budget cuts on Northview. State that a raid of the School Aid Fund, which was established and promised for K-12 education, is an unacceptable method of balancing the budget.
Sincerely and With Great Respect,