The Van Buren Public Schools annual budget has to be approved by July 1 and at Monday’s school board meeting, with a bare quorum, the 2022-23 budgets were approved, as well as the budget amendments for the 2021-22 budget and the millage rate for taxing.
Board vice-president Susan Featheringill chaired the meeting in the absence of the president. Others present were secretary Darlene Gerick, treasurer Simone Pinter, and trustee Kelly Owen. Absent were president Amy Pearce and trustees Calvin Hawkins and Dionne Falconer.
Finance Director Sara Cortese went over the budgets in detail and stated the tax levy will be 18 mills for non-homestead property within the district, 2.98 mills for debt retirement, and .4786 mills for building site sinking fund purposes.
The total available to appropriate for the general fund is $74,266,369 and the projected fund balance on June 30, 2023 will be $3,612,727.
She said the state paid $8,700 per student this year and she expects a $400 increase, and maybe more, in the next school year. But, she said, the student count continues to drop, with a total of 4,333 this year and a projected loss of 120 next year. Staffing went from 550 to 562, she said.
Director Cortese said revenues are up and expenses are up. She said salaries have been raised to keep employees. She said one teacher recently ordered the same supplies as last year and reported double the cost.
She said this year they had free lunches for all, paid for by the federal government, but they are not assured that will happen next year. If it doesn’t, they may have to increase lunch costs. She said negotiations with lunch workers is under way and she expects they will have to pay $15 per hour, since otherwise the school couldn’t compete with a job at McDonald’s.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:
- Approved the termination of Heba Ghanem, a teacher at Belleville High School, as of June 10, after one year of service; and the resignations of Matthew Wilson from the Administration Building on June 10 after one year of service and Shandra Pettway, a teacher at Rawsonville Elementary, as of June 30, after eight years of service;
- Approved the retirement of Carolina Scipione, a paraprofessional at Owen Intermediate School, as of Aug. 31, after six years of service. Also approved was the termination of Kyle Price of the Building and Grounds/Maintenance department as of June 10, after less than a year of service, and the resignation of Opal Gunter of the Administration Building as of July 8 after two years of service;
- Approved a one-year agreement to send transition-age students (aged 18 to 26) to the Livonia Public Schools for its Transition Program to provide a post-secondary certificate of completion for special educations students without diplomas, giving them the opportunity to learn job skills and attend classes on a community college campus. The cost is $8,000 per student and three students are participating;
- Listened to Rob Kakoczki of Plante Moran Cresa explain the proposed HVAC project for Tyler Elementary School this summer. The project will be voted on at the July 11 meeting. Kakoczki said the district went out for bids for two HVAC programs for Tyler and Savage schools, but stopped the project when the bids were higher than expected. But, Tyler had an emergency and now two units, rather than one, have to be replaced. This now is a separate project for Tyler, so the roof will have to be replaced just once, instead of twice. Bids for this went out June 2 and were received June 21 and reviewed June 24. Mechanical System Services and Douglas Electric are being recommended, paid for by $350,000 from federal government ESSER funds. The project will start soon after approval and is planned to be done before students return to classes this fall;
- Heard Owen Principal Jason Salhaney give a presentation on the WIN – What I Need — program in his school that is aimed at bringing students together after the pandemic upsets in learning. They needed to build a community as well as educate, he said. He said tests show decline in fifth-grade reading and math, but in sixth grade math is improving. He said among the several programs instituted was a Field Day and 15 ROTC cadets came from the high school to help with that; and
- Held a closed-door session at the end of the meeting to consider reinstatement of Student 21-22-004 for the 2022-23 school year. The student was expelled during the 2021-22 school year. After the closed session, the board met in open session to vote publicly to reinstate the student with conditions.
A special meeting was held at 6 p.m. before the regular 7 p.m. board meeting in order to hold another closed-door session on student reinstatement. This was for Student 21-22-020 for the 2022-23 school year. This student was expelled during the 2021-22 school year. The board came into regular session and voted to reinstate the student with conditions and then ended the special session.