Board of Education to privatize portion of grounds staff

The Dexter Community Schools may be losing part of its grounds staff to privatization due to budget cuts.

During a regular Board of Education meeting Monday night Superintendent Chris Timmis presented a budget draft that including privatizing the care of non-athletic lawns. The privatization would likely see a two-person loss of staff.

The cuts are a result in less funding from the state, according to board Vice President Julie Schumaker. Dexter is only seeing an increase of .33 percent in state funding, though inflation has gone up 1.6 percent in 2014.  On top of that, the district is projected to loose 25 students next year.

“That’s not just Dexter, that’s around the state,” she said. “We are not receiving the same funding.”

Dexter Custodian Rich Wines spoke out during the meeting’s public participation against the privatization. He said the spirit of working together toward enriching the lives of Dexter’s students would be hindered by bringing in an outside company.

“Everyone around here works as a team to keep our kids safe,” he said. “Once you start to privatize you won’t stop.”

Currently Dexter has private contracts to employ substitute teachers and non-teaching coaches. All other custodial, transportation and support staff are employed directly by DCS.

Wines stressed that the current support staff is one of the smallest in Washtenaw County’s nine school districts, and everyone works hard to maintain a high level of service.

(Related: Rich Wines shines putting DCS children first)

Rich Wines has been a maintenance man at DCS for 14 years. Wines stands in Wylie Elementary School Jan. 29.
Rich Wines has been a maintenance man at DCS for 14 years. Wines stands in Wylie Elementary School Jan. 29.

On top of the privatization, this year’s budget will see a reduction in teaching staff – several retirements won’t be filled. No currently employed teachers will be laid off, according to this draft of the budget. One secretarial position was on the chopping block, but several board members spoke up to retain it. Cutting the position would save the district about $50,000.

Board President Michael Wendorf said saving $50,000 wasn’t enough to justify cutting the position at this time.

“We ought to commit to spending an extra $50,000 if that’s what it takes to protect our programs, the interaction between the staff and our kids and minimize turmoil with in the district,” he said.

Legally the district is required to have a budget set by June 30, though the numbers they get from the state aren’t on the same timeline.

“They hold us accountable in a very different way than they hold themselves,” Wendorf said.

As it currently stands the 2015-2016 budget is $537,000 over revenue – money from the district’s general fund balance would be used to cover that. That fund balance currently stands at $6 million.

The board will vote on the finalized budget at its next meeting June 29. After the budget is finalized, the district can alter it. Those amendments typically come in November after student count day and state budgets are finalized.

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