Howell voters to have say on school budget

Staff Writer

HOWELL — The proposed 2011-12 budget for the Howell K-8 School District will include the restoration of jobs lost in previous years and the elimination of fees students were required to pay in 2010-11 in order to participate in middle school sports and co-curricular activities.

The 2011-12 budget totals $110.7 million. It is made up of the following: a $100.4 million general fund, $2.4 million in state and federal programs, and $7.9 million in debt service (the scheduled repayment of long-term debt).

The general fund tax levy will remain flat at $64.5 million, which is the same general fund tax levy the district had for 2010- 11, according to information provided by district administrators.

The general fund tax levy is the amount of money that residents will be asked to approve in the April 27 school election.

The K-8 tax rate for 2011-12 is proposed to be $1.038 per $100 of assessed valuation. That means the owner of a home that is assessed at $150,000 will pay $1,557 in K-8 school taxes in 2011-12. The owner of a home that is assessed at the township average of $350,000 will pay $3,633 in K-8 school taxes in 2011-12. The owner of a home that is assessed at $500,000 will pay $5,190 in K-8 school taxes in 2011-12.

If the general fund tax levy is not approved by voters, the school district’s proposed budget for 2011-12 will be sent to the Howell Township Council for review.

The members of the municipal governing body can certify the $64.5 million tax levy the school board is requesting, or they can certify a lower amount and make recommendations as to what should be removed from the Board of Education.

The school board has the final determination of what would be removed from the budget.

The 2011-12 budget is “not asking for one penny more than we were allotted last year from the local taxpayers,” said Ron Sanasac, the district’s business administrator.

Sanasac said he and the board members were pleased to receive an increase in state aid for the upcoming school year. He said the board members were concerned that state aid would be reduced for 2011-12, but the district has received a $1 million increase in state aid for 2011-12.

The increase will help restore programs and items that were cut last year, he said.

Howell also received $1,149,592 in federal education jobs fund money. With that money in hand, administrators are planning to review the prior year’s reductions in jobs and possibly ask people who were laid off last year to come back.

Sanasac said the No. 1 priority for Superintendent of Schools Enid Golden is to restore teaching positions in order to reduce class size. Administrators are also hoping to restore guidance positions, nursing services, hire a student assistance coordinator and acquire building administrative support.

“This budget accomplishes quite a bit,” Sanasac said.

The board also plans to purchase six buses and to fund textbook purchases.

“We have to work very hard on the costs we can control because there are so many costs we can’t control,” he said.

Numerous modifications and initiatives took place in the 2010-11 budget that have now allowed board members to propose the 2011-12 spending plan that will go before the voters next week.

“The 2010-11 budget was quite a challenge,” Sanasac said, noting that the reductions in the district’s teaching staff resulted in an increase in class size and a decrease in support services.

The district also saw a 20 percent cut in administration last year, which resulted in the reduction of curricular supervision and a reduction in building coverage.

Changes in shifts throughout transportation and food service also helped cut costs, he said, adding that the change in hours of operation in order to save on energy and utilities also proved to be beneficial.

“All of these savings become revenue that offset the need to raise taxes,” he said.

Goals for 2011-12 include maintaining all current programs and staffing levels, eliminating the pay-to-participate fees, and continued implementation of cost-saving initiatives, which include shared services, central purchasing, revenue enhancement (including leasing the Southard School) and operational efficiencies.

Spending trends are continuing to be more efficient and streamlined, Sanasac said.