Sprinkler Lake Education Center will have to find alternate funding sources for its NatureFest and WinterFest events during the next fiscal year, if given final approval from the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Board of Education.
Historically the education center has received its funding from the state, consortium member fees paid by school districts and intermediate school districts and general fund dollars from the AMA ESD. Recently AMA ESD officials have decided general fund dollars will not be allocated to fund the two events during the next fiscal year.
The education center focuses on math, science and environmental activities. It has served the AMA ESD, Iosco Regional Educational Service Agency and surrounding communities for 11 years.
Superintendent Brian Wilmot said AMA ESD and area school superintendents have made student achievement a priority which aligns with district’s strategic plan. Because of tight budget times, the AMA ESD has had to look at all of its programs and decide which ones fit within this priority.
NatureFest and WinterFest have been considered more community oriented programs. Of the two, WinterFest has more overhead costs because the education center has to be kept open during the winter and requires more maintenance to prepare for the event.
“Although it’s been a fun program, it hasn’t been central to what I call student achievement,” Wilmot said of WinterFest. “When resources are limited you’re in a position to set priorities. We’re going to use some of those dollars to help support work on science and or math curriculum in our four member districts.”
Tom Caldwell, Iosco RESA superintendent, said at this time the agency does not have the resources to allocate general fund dollars for NatureFest or WinterFest.
“We sincerely appreciate everything the AMA ESD has done to help the local districts and Iosco RESA but I understand (Wilmot’s) position,” he said.
Business Manager Tony Suszek said AMA ESD spent between $30,000 and $50,000 for this year’s WinterFest and between $20,000 and $25,000 for NatureFest. Much of the cost comes from paying staff to plan and run the events and contracts for the different stations at the events.
“We’re looking in the future to redirect those efforts. We really need to have these people working in the schools for student achievement,” he said.
Wilmot said the funding reallocations will only have an effect on NatureFest and Winterfest. The education center will continue to offer programs such as Nature’s Classroom, Camp Wilderness and math/science family nights.
“I’m happy that in making these changes we haven’t had to reduce staff,” he said. “I’m most proud that we’ve been able to get our budget in line with our priorities and also at the same time maintain those key student achievement programs. We’re doing all that on not much dollars from the state.”
Director of General Education Gary Goren said he and Tracy D’Augustino, education center program coordinator, currently are working to find ways to fund this year’s NatureFest. Goren has approached area businesses to see if they are interested in sponsoring the event.
D’Augustino said she’s looking for interested people to work on a friend’s group for the education center. The group would be responsible for planning fund-raising projects to initially benefit NatureFest and WinterFest and other programs down the road.
D’Augustino said the AMA ESD will also provide money to start an endowment fund for the education center if the group is able to get going.
“I would like to see all of our key people in place by the end of April and have our first meeting,” she said.
Those who are interested in sponsoring NatureFest can contact Goren at 354-3101. Individuals interested in working on the education center friends group can contact D’Augustino at 735-4055.
Patty Ramus can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687.