March 13 2013 12:00 AM

A look at the issues to come in 2013: employee contracts and funding support

Thursday, Dec. 27 — There’s plenty of uncertainty heading into 2013 for the Lansing School District, including renegotiating contracts for nearly all district employees and uncertain budget support from the state and federal governments.

Some good news is that the school board adopted a budget amendment on Dec. 20 — following the district’s November financial audit — that reflects a general fund balance of $4.6 million expected for fiscal year that ends June 2013. Originally, the district thought it would have just over $500,000 in its coffers.

The increase was expected because, as Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul put it: “We forecasted incredibly conservatively. We assumed a worst-case scenario.”

However, the bigger question is what will happen with public school funding when the new state Legislature takes over in January and if the country goes over the “fiscal cliff” if President Barack Obama and Congress can’t come up with a budget agreement by Tuesday.

Federal programs like Title I — which provide funding to school districts with a relatively higher number of poorer students — will weaken if a federal budget isn’t agreed upon. Title I dollars provided $2.5 million for the district out of a nearly $156 million budget.

Also on the minds of school officials are the numerous employee contracts set to expire in 2013. Board President Myra Ford said all but one employee group contract is up for renegotiation.

“Obviously, we’re going to have to look at what we’re going to ask our employees to do to balance the budget,” she said. “It’s something we’ve had to do for the last couple of years. It’s not something we enjoy or like doing — and it’s certainly not something (employees) like — but I think they understand that until things get better with the economy, we’re kind of stuck.”

Caamal Canul said it’s “highly unlikely” that the district will be in a position to give any employee group a pay raise.

“I’m not meaning to sound doom and gloom, but it’s pretty likely we might be asking for some concessions from everyone,” she said.