Local budget problems

Items related to the AAPS's current budget difficulties, especially the need to find $11 million in cuts for FY08 and 09.

Washtenaw schools millage fails; now what?

Hard choices remain ahead, made even harder by the failure of the Washtenaw Schools Millage. But our real problem, highlighted by this campaign, is the spread of a corrosive world-view in which schools are assumed to be parasites on taxpayers rather than a common investment in the future. This cannot be changed quickly, but change it must, for the sake of our children and our community.

Schools are the foundation of our future

This article was published in the Other Voices series of op-ed columns by the Ann Arbor News on Sunday, June 14, 2009. The version posted on the Mlive.com web site is available here.

The school budget news from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and other communities in Washtenaw County is disturbing, and for good reason. School officials say that in the next two years we will all be driving over the edge of a “funding cliff” that threatens to injure our public schools for years to come. Some school districts are on the brink of failure, while others are having to cut teaching staff for the first time in recent memory. The depth of the coming crisis varies for each district, but the crisis is coming just the same. The question is, should we try to do something about it? Should we the people, the taxpayers, be worried?

The answer should be a resounding “YES!”

AAPS Budget discussions

Top district officials held open public meetings last week to talk about school funding and the AAPS budget.

Update: A copy of the district’s presentation, and a place to submit questions online, can be found on the AAPS web site.

Attendance was modest in the extreme, and details of any potential cuts were few, but it was a good opportunity to explain to citizens what has been happening with school funding and where the district finds itself today. Even before the Governor’s proposed budget cuts (see story on MIPFS site soon), the AAPS was projecting a deficit of nearly $6 million on a budget of $185 million that would continue the current level of services. While the Governor’s proposed $59 per pupil cut (nearly $1 million in Ann Arbor’s case) is probably moot because of the Federal stimulus funding, the district may still face another $60 per pupil cut in state funding in a separate provision that only applies to higher-spending districts.

Board of Education begins budget process

Disagreements reflect broader splits over school finance

At a special study session tonight, AAPS Superintendent Todd Roberts and Deputy Superintendent Robert Allen gave a preliminary briefing on the school system’s 2009-10 budget. Good news was in short supply, though progress has been made on several fronts and Federal stimulus money may yet come through to help schools. But, absent Federal action, the district’s leadership is projecting a budget deficit of just under $6 million for next year. Without any other changes, the projected trend continues with a $8.74 million deficit in 2010-11 and an even $12 million deficit in 2011-12. They need to close the gap and will be looking for community involvement in making the hard choices.

School millages pass!

With the concerted effort of many parts of our community, the two AAPS millage proposals passed handily on May 6th. Below is the post-election message posted on the Citizens’ Millage Committee web site:

Dear Friends,

The County has finished posting their unofficial election results, and WE DID IT! Not only did both AAPS millage proposals win handily, they won in just about every precinct. (Preliminary results below.)

What's on the ballot? Part II - The Sinking Fund

Ballot proposals always seem to be written so that only a lawyer could understand them. Anyway, who has time to read them while people tap their feet waiting for your voting booth? Fear not, dear reader – we’re here to help.

What's on the ballot? Part I - The Operating Millage

Ballot proposals always seem to be written so that only a lawyer could understand them. Anyway, who has time to read them while people tap their feet waiting for your voting booth? Fear not, dear reader – we’re here to help.

What can I do?

Wondering what you can do right now to help keep Ann Arbor’s public schools the kind of place where you want to send your kids? We have a few ideas… Feel free to pass this along!

Time for everyone to step up

School property tax millage renewals are the first step toward securing adequate funding for our public schools, and Ann Arbor Parents for Schools supports these measures.

And so it begins. Facing continued pressure on the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ budget, the AAPS Board of Education voted to get an early start on renewing local tax levies that provide half of our public school system’s operating budget. In their 20 February meeting, board trustees voted to place these renewals on the ballot for the 6 May school elections.

Stepping up as a community: news from the Education Foundation

There are a number of ways to cope with the funding crisis our schools find themselves in, and one way is to come together as a community and help support important programs with private donations. The AAPS Education Foundation is just starting a major initiative to expand their fundraising and granting capacity, with the aim of making significant contributions to the curriculum at all levels of the public schools. They say their aim is to “turn taxpayers into philanthropists.” Since we have so little control over public funding for our public schools, entities like the Ed Foundation can come to play an important role in taking the fate of our schools back into our own hands.