Lessons in Survival
The district dodged that bullet with the help of its unions. "Last summer, we settled [contracts] with the teachers and the support staff," Graden says now. "Together they're about 90 percent of the budget, and they gave between 4 to 7 percent in concessions. Plus the health care hard cap helped. It's tough on employees, but those measures have helped us manage."
Saline has also sold property to balance the budget, explains chief financial officer Janice Warner in an email. "We sold Union School in 2010 and some vacant land at the corner of Woodland Drive and Maple Rd. next to the Middle School in 2012. We also closed Houghton School in 2010 and it remains vacant."
The district spent the Union School proceeds in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years, and the Woodland and Maple proceeds went to support its fund balance. Even so, with a current budget of $48.6 million, it's got just $1.8 million in savings, or just 3.8 percent of the budget.
But things may have hit bottom for Saline. The current budget is down 9 percent from five years ago, but at $48.9 million, next year's budget will be a bit higher than this year's. More significantly for the district's long-term financial health, its fund balance is projected to return to its pre-recession level of 5 percent and slowly increase from there.