Durand Area Schools

DURAND — Durand Area Schools will draw roughly $1.6 million from its general fund balance as part of a 2020-21 budget officials say will preserve academic programming and support services for students.

The preliminary budget, approved unanimously by the district’s board of education Wednesday, reflects no layoffs and projects revenue at $12,827,720 with expenditures of $14,461,925.

Budgeted revenue is down by approximately $739,885 from the final 2019-20 budget, with the largest impact coming from a projected $500 cut in foundation allowance (per pupil funding) from the state at $7,611 per student. The district is also anticipating a smaller student count, officials said.

Expenditures, meanwhile, are projected to climb by nearly $1 million in 2020-21 due to several increased costs, including an additional $454,279 in salary and benefits for staff, $50,000 in unfunded retirement liability and $26,679 in textbook purchases.

The district budgeted $1.6 million from its fund equity to balance expenditures for the 2020-21 budget year. The estimated fund balance on June 30, 2021, is $269,363, roughly two percent of overall expenditures.

“It’s a huge reduction to our fund equity, but we don’t want to make reductions right now and we don’t want to shortchange our kids by (making cuts),” Superintendent Craig McCrumb said Wednesday. “We’ll take a hit financially, but what we are doing is maintaining small class sizes, maintaining all of the supports that we’ve had in place and by doing so we’re sending the message that our kids are important.”

Durand is budgeting for a student count of 1,262 this fall, a decline of 32 students from the previous year, according to Business Manager Nadine Pajtas. The projected revenue loss of those 32 students is $243,552, she said.

The exact financial picture for 2020-21 is difficult to project, McCrumb added, given that the state Legislature has yet to pass a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

School districts in Michigan are required to submit their budgets by July 1. The state budget year, meanwhile, does not begin until October.

Though Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have proposed a $1.3 billion plan to help K-12 schools reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, McCrumb said Wednesday’s approved budget reflects no additional support from Lansing.

Nonetheless, the district is investing in its students, using a portion of its $200,000 in CARES Act funding from the federal government to purchase electronic devices, according to McCrumb.

Beginning this fall, the district will be able to provide one electronic device for every single student, he said, noting pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students will receive iPads while students in grades 1-12 in need of a device will receive Chromebooks.

On Wednesday, the board of education also authorized the purchase of new middle school social studies curriculum to address the recently adopted social studies standards, which were approved in 2019.

The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt social studies curriculum, an estimated $23,359 cost for the district over two years, was piloted by the Durand Middle School’s social studies department in 2019.

“I really thank the board for taking this into consideration and I know it’s going to be such a good benefit to our students,” Durand Middle School Principal Rebecca Shankster said Wednesday, adding she may be able to come in roughly $2,400 under budget for the textbooks and associated materials from Houghton Mifflin’s original quote.

“I’m very thankful we’ve got it and can’t wait to get back in and use it again,” middle school social studies teacher Darrel Brown added. “It’s perfect for if we have to go online because everything’s all right there, so if circumstances don’t let us be in the classroom (this year), it’s all set up for it.”

McCrumb said the purchase of electronic devices and additional curriculum for students is indicative of the district’s dedication to its students. With kids having already missed nine weeks of instruction at the end of the 2019-20 school year due to the coronavirus, coupled with summer break, now is not the time to be making reductions, he said.

“We’re staying the course,” McCrumb said. “Our test scores are going up every year and we have momentum as a district. Our teachers are doing an unbelievable job, so lets double down, lets invest in our kids at a time when they need it the most.

“I’m confident with where we’re at,” he continued. “Of course I would like more money in the bank as a cushion for the year, but I’m very confident with what we’re doing and where we’re headed.”

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