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Committee to tackle ailing Atlanta budget

June 7, 2012
Emily Siegmon - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ATLANTA - The Atlanta Community Schools Board of Education discussed its 2012-13 proposed fiscal year budget, but was unable to accept it as it was presented. After much deliberation and questions from community and board members, President John Fazekas appointed a committee to work together to improve next year's proposed budget. The committee includes board members Laurel Orm, Dave Smith, Michael Talbot and community members Terry Deo and Larry Valentine, but will be overseen by Superintendent Donald Haskin Jr. The committee is scheduled to meet before the next regular board meeting to discuss the budget and create a detailed version of it for board and community approval.

"The more people that are included in this process, the better off everything will be. We had some good interactions, a lot of issues were raised and quality questions, concerns, and suggestions were made at our meeting," Haskin said.

Haskin said comments were made about the school heading in the right direction in comparison to last year, but approximately $56,000 of the proposed budget will go toward paying for special education services and $75,000 is estimated to be spent in legal fees against the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District.

Community members voiced their concerns over the high cost of fees and services over the lawsuit, and were unsatisfied with the lack of transportation budget, and cuts in staffing and classes.

The proposed budget currently shows no money going toward alternative education, guidance services, a school success worker, drug-free schools pupil assistance, staffing for the Linda Mood Bell professional development, or debt service payments. It also shows major decreases in funding across the board in comparison to last year.

According to the Atlanta Community Schools proposed budget for 2012-13, total revenues are expected to amount to $2,811,044 with total administrative costs amounting to $1,555,864 and $10,700 is expected to cover the cost of pupil support services. The total expenditures are estimated to amount to $2,846,665 ending with $37,424 fund balance.

Haskin said the possibility of cutting an elementary teacher, woodshop and art is likely to occur, along with not replacing retired staff members. He also said he might take on multiple roles at the school, including overseeing transportation and teaching physical education.

"The good news is it's in the black ... If we can come through the storm with that, I'll feel good," Haskin said.

Terry Deo disagreed and said the school is ultimately in the red this year and will be in the next.

"Eliminate attorney fees and special education fees that can be provided by the AMA ESD," Terry Deo said.

AMA ESD Vice President Naomi Deo addressed the board asking members to talk about the 67 children that have left Atlanta Schools to go to a school of choice.

"Where are the 67 children ... we're not providing families what they need. There are a bunch of special education students that went without any services this year, shame on all of you for allowing that to happen," Naomi Deo said.

Haskin said the board is trying to pick up the pieces, but stressed that the open forum was about coming up with ideas to make Atlanta Community Schools a better place.

"Right now we have a budget that needs to be worked on. I want to hear what people have to say on how we can make this work," Trustee Roselyn Ferguson said.

After much discussion about the ongoing AMA ESD issues and the ISD budget, the board members decided to invite AMA ESD representatives to the school to discuss concerns and to answer questions.

"I'm hoping to hear back from (AMA ESD Superintendent) Brian (Wilmot) and have an open dialogue about the budget and the possibility of having services next year," Haskin said.

In the meantime, members who were appointed to work on finalizing a detailed budget are scheduled to meet and will present a new version of the proposed budget to the board and community members at the next regular board meeting on June 21.

Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5687.



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