Lessons in Survival
The recently passed 2014-15 state budget won't help much. Though it nominally raises K-12 funding 3 percent, most of the increase is already slated for the pension fund and will never reach the classroom. The districts will see only tiny increases in per-pupil funding--Chelsea is up $11 to $7,191, Dexter up $9 to $7,182,and Saline up $14 to $7,382.
All three districts have cut spending wherever they can, but even so, they balanced their budgets this year only by dipping into their savings accounts. Those "fund balances" are still healthy in Dexter and Chelsea, but Saline's has fallen so low that it's run out of operating capital and has had to borrow money.
There may be hope in the long term. Area unemployment is back to pre-recession levels, and local housing sales are rising, promising more children and more tax revenue. But Larry Cobler still hedges his bets. "The money going to the state is going to go up, but is the state going to give more money to the schools? I don't have confidence that the current Republican administration sees the value in public education."
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