Chesaning Indians

Sign displaying the Chesaning Indians logo located on 4th Street near the main entrance of Chesaning Union High School.

CHESANING — Chesaning Union Schools announced it has laid off two teachers and consolidated its maintenance and transportation directors into one position as part of a 2020-21 budget officials say should preserve the bulk of academic and extracurricular programming for students.

The preliminary budget, approved unanimously by the district’s board of education Monday, projects revenue at $13,591,455 with expenditures of $14,545,630.

Budgeted revenue for 2020-21 is down more than $1.4 million from the final 2019-20 budget, with the largest impact coming from a projected $750 cut in per pupil funding from the state at $7,361 per student, as well as an anticipated drop in student count.

“Obviously the budget for next year is based on a worst-case scenario,” Superintendent Mike McGough said. “Without any real numbers at our disposal it is just conjecture at this point and we, as do all schools, have to prepare for significant cuts in revenue. We are confident that we can still provide a quality education despite the cuts and are currently putting plans together to offer delivery of instruction in a variety of manners for the fall including an online option.”

Chesaning is projecting a decline of 20 students from October 2019, which coupled with an estimated $750 cut in per pupil funding from the state contributed to the laying off of elementary music teacher Lauren Rhoads and high school science teacher Nathan Megel, according to McGough.

“We don’t like to cut the arts but we do have another staff member at Big Rock Elementary who could incorporate music into some type of a performing arts program … We do have other staff that could fill that void,” McGough said, referring to the departure of Rhoads. “Hopefully it’s only for a year, but when you cut a million dollars from a budget you have to get creative. In this case, we won’t have to say, ‘Well, we won’t have music at Big Rock,’ we just won’t have music the way we’ve had it the last few years. We’ll still incorporate it into other activities.”

Megel’s position will also be absorbed by existing staff, McGough said.

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

Though Chesaning’s budgeted revenue for 2020-21 is significantly lower than previous years, Finance Director Paula Peterson highlighted a number of savings that will aid the district in closing the funding gap, among them a $144,000 budget surplus carried over from the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“We were able to save in a couple major areas,” Peterson said, noting the mandated closure of schools in March led to reduced heat, electric and water costs for the district.

Chesaning also experienced reduced transportation and substitute costs as a result of the closure, Peterson said.

Approximately $200,000 in federal funds will also be awarded to the district during the 2020-21 fiscal year as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“We will use that money to continue to employ existing staff in order to maintain continuity of educational services and reduce the number of teachers we have to lay off,” McGough said.

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