School board welcomes interaction
To the Editor:
I fully support Mrs. Gerschick in urging the community to come to school board meetings (letter to the editor, TCT Feb. 25). I have been encouraging people to do so for years and would welcome the interaction.
However, as she alluded to, there are two sides to this issue and people should be completely informed of all the facts before developing opinions based on emotions. I would encourage people to come early and speak one-on-one with board members. After all, they are elected to represent you.
As everyone well knows, the nation and this state are going through the worst financial crisis in many years. Michigan faces a $1.6 billion deficit and in order to help close the gap Governor Granholm has proposed cutting the funding for schools by $59 per student. That translates to around a $100,000 reduction for Capac schools. This only adds salt to the wound when you consider that the district is expecting to be around $300,000 in the red this year and at least the same next. With enrollment consistently declining every year, balancing the budget has been extremely difficult. In fact, this will be the fifth year since the 2001/02 school year that the district has ended the year with a deficit. Modest gains were made in the past two years, but that was due to several difficult decisions made by the administration and board.
First, two years ago the board cut their own pay by 20%, froze administrative salaries, and required administrators to contribute to their health insurance. Several administrative positions and office staff were also laid off or not replaced.
A pay to play system of athletics was then introduced.
A buyout package was offered for employees nearing retirement age which many accepted.
Finally, the hardest decisions were made to cut the art and computer classes in the elementary school and lay off 4 outstanding teachers.
Even after all this, the fact that the district is still in deficit and more cuts are possible is tough to swallow. According to last year's audit, 84% of the budget was spent on salaries and benefits. This leaves only 16% for instruction programs and paying for operating the buildings. As you can see, balancing the budget without affecting people that you really do care about is not possible.
Mrs. Gerschick, I know just how you feel, because I'm a parent of three in Capac schools. But I disagree with you about the members of the board. The only reason that a person serves on a school board is because they care. It's certainly not for the $25 per month they receive and if there's another benefit, no one has told me about it yet. Most of the board members are very involved with school activities. A couple of quick examples are John Antilla who donates his time, talent, and money to the robotics club. Dale Stuever has donated his time, equipment, and gas to developing the new baseball fields south of the elementary school. If you ever go to an indoor sporting event at the high school, walk down to the concession stand and you will always see Jim Crane and his family working hard (sometimes 4 nights per week) because the money made there all goes to benefit the band program.
I could go on, but again my point is take an opportunity to meet and talk with your board members before throwing stones. If you can't make it to a meeting, a link to the board's email is available on the school web page: www.capac.k12.mi.us. Or you can ask any of the picketing teachers and they will hand you a green paper with all of the board members' phone numbers on it.
Greg Warnez, Member Capac School Board, Riley Center
March 04, 2009