School board to consider budget cuts in wake of COVID-19 economic impact

SWARTZ CREEK — The Swartz Creek Community Schools Board of Education is preparing to respond to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously, we know we’ve shut down almost all sectors of our economy until recently,” said Superintendent Ben Mainka. “A byproduct of those situations is we are going to see a reduction in state revenue, most definitely.”

The Swartz Creek school district is better positioned than many school systems when it comes to handling the loss of revenues, Mainka said.

“We are healthy,” he said. “We’ve been able to pull a number of dollars into our fund balance over the years.”

In addition, the district likely will be able to pull about $1.3 million from the 2019- 20 budget into the 2020-21 budget.

“We’ve slashed and halted spending for last two months,” Mainka explained. “With what we’ve seen coming, we have not made purchase orders or done anything outside base operation. Second, we have no buses running so we’re saving fuel costs, and operational costs. We’ve closed the pool and shut off the heater and boiler and turned the heat down in the buildings. All those things add up to fairly substantial savings.”

The cuts in state funding will come in the foundation allowance. Currently, that sum is $8,111 per student.

Mainka said the best-case scenario is that the number will be cut by about $300; at worst, $900.

That means the Swartz Creek schools could lose $1.4 million to $4 million.

“Obviously, that’s massively substantial, and it will require us to take some actions,” Mainka said.

The greatest cut to public education in Michigan came in 2009 when state aid fell by $470 per student.

“Obviously, you know we had a pretty big recession in 2008, and that really impacted our revenues,” Mainka said. “When we got that cut, districts were forced to make a lot of decisions. The unfortunate news is we’re going to see something significant as a result of this budgetary shortfall. The fullest extent we do not know.

“We are starting to plan for what our targets would look like – what type of cut would we expect? We’re not sure. We just don’t know. But, based on projections, we’re looking at a pretty substantial cut to our budget.”