ALPENA - Alpena Public Schools has received verbal notice that its deficit elimination plan has been approved by the Michigan Department of Education. The plan was submitted on July 16, and the Department of Education did not require any changes to the submitted plan.
"I think it speaks well of both the viability of our plan and the quality of our staff that our plan was approved in two weeks without any changes," Superintendent Brent Holcomb said. "We know of other districts whose plans have taken months to get through the approval process."
At the end of June, the district self-reported its anticipated $1.2 million deficit, preparing to file a deficit elimination plan before its audit.
"We have been preparing our staff and community for some time that a deficit was likely, but at the same time have been laying the groundwork for the solution," Assistant Auperintendent for Operations Diane Block said.
The district has been dealing with declining enrollment and funding for the last few years, and already has been trimming spending.
"We've cut non-essentials, implemented fundraising, reduced employee benefit costs, cut staff, closed buildings, selectively privatized, and even sought an enhancement millage in our quest to balance the budget," Holcomb said. "We aren't going to cut programming any further, and we aren't going to increase class sizes to inappropriate levels. Our children deserve a first class education and we will continue to deliver. We won't stop being a school."
The plan submitted by APS calls for a 10 percent wage reduction across the board for all employee groups. Holcomb, all administrators, custodial, maintenance, cafeteria and non-unionized staff already have taken their 10 percent cuts effective July 1. The district's teachers, instructional support and bus driver units contracts are being negotiated. The agreements expire Aug. 31.
The acceptance of the plan is only the beginning of a long process in which the district must now submit monitoring reports to the Michigan Department of Education and has until June 30, 2015, to emerge from deficit.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.