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Brighton Schools Face $445,000 Deficit Without Sale of Lindbom Elementary

Brighton is facing an operating deficit this year in addition to a $7 million legacy debt.

If Lindbom Elementary does not sell by the end of the fiscal year, Brighton Area Schools could be looking at an operating deficit of $445,000, according to Assistant Superintendent of Finance Maria Gistinger.

The Brighton Area Board of Education tabled a vote to approve an amended 2012-13 budget so they could hear discussion on the topic during a finance committee of the whole meeting Monday night.

Lindbom is currently on the market for $2.2 million.

"If we use the sale of Lindbom to balance the budget, then it's not a sustainable amount," Board President Miles Vieau said. "It's only good for that present year. And of course, we've made that mistake, where we've taken fund equity and it's not sustainable, and we've paid for contracts on it, and that's got us into trouble. So keep that in mind."

Generating additional revenue is unlikely at this point in the fiscal year, so the district is most likely looking at reduction in expenditures, Gistinger said.

According to Superintendent Greg Gray, the district's 2013-14 budget could be starting off with a $3.5-$4 million deficit because of a variety of factors such as declining enrollment, a decrease of between $100-$150 per pupil state funding, an increase in the retirement rate and paying off the energy debt from the general fund now that the sinking fund is depleted.

In addition, the Board of Education voted to decrease their revenue by adopting a Pay to Play fee elimination schedule over the summer. The elimination plan cost the district $120,000 this year and will drop the final $120,000 next year.

"Really out of all of that, the hardest part is the declining enrollment," Gray said. "We will continue to see at least 200 declining enrollment (each year) because of the fact that we are graduating classes of 550 kids and bringing in classes of 390 kids in kindergarten."

Gistinger said the district is probably going to look at closing another elementary school in about three to four more years.

In addition, Brighton still must find a way to pay off it's existing $7 million legacy debt.

Gray said the only place the district has to make cuts is in its people.

"The board has to decide what programs want to keep and what programs have to go," he said. "It's ironic that if the state wouldn't have cut us $470 in the last two years, that's $7 million. There's your deficit. But they did. And it is what it is. We're at the levels of the early 2000s, but we're supposed to educate these kids ready for the 21st Century—it's a joke. It's time to put up or shut up."

Board Secretary Nick Fiani listed suggestions such as privatizing maintenance and combining it with Whitmore Lake, privatizing secretarial services and staffing school libraries with para-pros instead of media specialists.

Both Gray and Gistinger are looking for recommendations on cutting expenditures from board members and employees.

The amended budget will be back on the agenda for a vote during the next board meeting, Feb. 11.

Kevin January 29, 2013 at 09:37 PM
How ironic - it was just barely a month ago that the headlines were touting the financial turnaround for Brighton Area Schools "Brighton Schools Operating in the Black After Nine Years" (see link: http://brighton.patch.com/articles/brighton-schools-operating-in-the-black-after-nine-years). Back in December Dr. Gray was quoted as saying "We don't have an expenditure problem, we have a revenue problem", yet the current each budget projection since June of last year shows expenses increasing. Hmmmm... At least we'll have a new pool, fitness center, tennis courts, and football stadium.
Nicole Krawcke January 29, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Thank you for your comment, Kevin. That article is about the audit of the last fiscal year budget. And Dr. Gray said the same thing Monday night - the school district has had decreasing revenues from the state of Michigan - $470 per student in the past two years and is now looking at another decrease of between $100-$150. And it is also facing declining enrollment. Those are some of the largest problems in terms of revenue.

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