Roberts presents plan to close deficit

Note: more information and discussion below the fold.

Superintendent Todd Roberts presented his plan to close next year’s projected $7.5 million budget deficit to the Ann Arbor school board last Wednesday night. According to press reports, the plan relies on eliminating 58 staff positions through attrition, including 34 middle and high school teacher positions. Also slated for cutting were 73 food service workers, who would lose their positions with the district as food service was entirely privatized. Dr. Roberts estimated that this move would net $400,000 in annual savings. (The food service workers would transfer to the winning bidder, Chartwells, with similar pay and benefits, according to district officials.)

A further $200,000 in annual savings is expected from shifting substitute teacher scheduling to the intermediate school district, which has a contract with a private company to allocate substitutes to schools. These moves are in addition to the buy-out offer for teachers with many years of service; the district hopes 55 teachers will accept the offer.

As of this writing, I don’t have firm figures on how much comes from savings and how much comes from hoped-for revenues. Nevertheless, there will be more to come for 2008-09. What do you think of the proposals so far?

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Details on the budget cut proposals

The table at right, courtesy of the Ann Arbor News, details the budget cut proposals Superintendent Todd Roberts presented to the school board last Wednesday night.

As the table makes clear, the middle school restructuring is a central part of the proposal, responsible for $2.4 million in annual savings out of the $7.6 million projected deficit. All the staffing cuts, apart from the food service privatization, will be from attrition. (This will clearly require re-adjusting workloads, since most of these were vacant positions which would otherwise have been filled.) The plan also builds in a maximum participation in the teacher buyout offer.

The food service privatization apparently includes a guaranteed payment from Chartwells as well as payroll savings for employees who will be moved to Chartwells.

So where does this leave us?


A side note on food service

When going though the board packet while writing the lead-in to this discussion, I noticed that both administrators and school board members made quite a point about how difficult it was to decide to privatize food service. It came as a surprise, therefore, to read in the Superintendent’s report that essentially all of the food service employees who now work for the district would be hired by the contractor, Chartwells, on similar terms.

But when I saw the sheet which spelled out the evaluation of the competing bids, I began to wonder. Dr. Roberts made the point in his cover letter to the Board that the bid process is defined quite rigidly, and bids are evaluated on points. Note then, in the document attached to this forum, that Chartwells wins on points entirely because of its price advantage. In the “non-price criteria” section, including in such areas as “nutrition education,” “financial management,” and “employee training and development,” Chartwells fares… less well.

The devil is always in the details, no?



I believe this is our current provider and they are terrible. The food selection is very unhealthy.

What I can’t figure out is how the district will save money if the food service staff is paid the same. Are they hiding costs hoping to snae us then later incraese rates?