Hartland's School Budget Would Spare Programs, Cut Employees Salaries
Teachers, administrators could see pay cut nearly 5 percent, plus benefit givebacks, officials say.
Instructional programs likely would be protected and class sizes maintained next year in Hartland as most employees would take pay and benefit cuts, under budget plans proposed to help plug a deficit expected to be as large as $4.1 million.
The changes, which would be likely considered by the Board of Education before the fiscal year begins July 1, is a current worse-case scenario if the state Legistature approves Gov. Rick Snyder's budget that brings a $470 per-pupil reduction.
Most employees can expect about a 5 percent decrease in pay and for the teachers union the district's plan would mean $400,000 in cuts to their benefit packages, officials said. And administrators and support staff also would face similar wage and benefit cuts, as the officials seek to delay the impact from students as long as possible, they say.
"Our No. 1 priority is our students," said Nancy Spranger, president of the Hartland Education Association, which represents the district's 269 teachers.
Superintendent Janet Sifferman said Hartland would be able to avoid more devastating cuts that are being talked about in other districts because of an existing surplus and a concessionary contract that makes it possible for pay and benefit cuts when state money is reduced. But if the Snyder proposal is passed, the district will have no other choice but to likely slash programs and increase class sizes as a result of possible layoffs in 2012-13. The district, she says, has cut $7 million over the last decade.
"The problem is there's nowhere left to go," Sifferman said. "We cannot cut our way out of this."
Salaries for teachers range from $38,000 to nearly $80,000, Spranger said, although the highest new teachers and most current teachers can reach is $75,000 based on experience and educational attainment. That would translate to about $2,000 to $4,000 pay cut per teacher with administrators losing more. For instance, Sifferman, who made the most in the district in 2009-10 at more than $140,000, would lose about $7,000.
Those reductions and likelihood of more cuts worry teachers about the future.
"It's hard to keep morale up," said Spranger, who is a fourth-grade teacher at Village Elementary.
Seeking parental support
Ever since Snyder announced his proposal, the district has been pushing parents to lobby lawmakers and the governor to reverse proposed cuts, arguing that transferring the a school aid fund surplus to higher education breaks a promise to taxpayers that those funds would be used for K-12 only.
The governor's office has emphasized that the cuts can be absorbed without affecting the classroom if districts achieve an 80-20 employer-employee split on their health care contributions along with a 10 percent cut in noninstructional costs.
But last week, Sifferman sent a letter to parents countering those claims, saying that would only save $3 million next year and not address a 10 percent increase in retirement cost increases already slated for 2012-13. (See PDF for a copy).
"I believe I have an obligation to inform you of the disaster, in my opinion, that is looming for Hartland Consolidated Schools and its students and families, with no reasonable path toward recovery in the foreseeable future," she wrote to parents. "Should Gov. Snyder’s plan be approved, I believe public education in this state will be permanently and irreparably harmed and (the district) will become a shadow of what this community has fought and striven for all these years."
One parent's perspective
Some parents already have approached the school board. At a recent meeting, parent Annie Klein raised concerns about even the current class sizes in the second grade at Round Elementary School where she has a second- and fourth-grader attending.
"There are 90-plus children divided up among three classrooms (in the second grade) and it's been really, really difficult for all of those kids this year," she told the board. "Having 30-plus children in a room- is a lot. And if they were 30 kids in a perfect world that would be one thing but these are 30 children in one classroom that have a lot of struggles."
Sifferman told Klein to take action by contacting Snyder. She said that the current class sizes are due to the cuts that the district has already faced over the last seven to 10 years.
"You, and your neighbors, and other parents who have children at Round or any other Hartland school — I urge you to contact the governor, and talk about what the governor's cuts will do to our district," she said.
"If the governor's budget goes through, next year and the year after that even I don't know what will happen because it will just decimate this district. I urge you to get active, and get your neighbors and community members involved and contact your legislators and our governor to let them know what it will do."
For a related story on the teacher's union effort to educate the public on the governor's proposal, click here.