AAPS Board Begins Budget Talks; Graduation Rates Up

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (April 27, 2016): W. Scott Westerman Preschool and Family Center

Tonight’s study session, beginning at 5:30 PM, focuses on the FY 2016-17 AAPS budget. Budget talks begin on the heels of yesterday’s  approval of education budgets in the state’s House of Representatives.

Study sessions allow the trustees to explore a topic more in depth than is usually allowed for at a regular meeting. After the study session, the trustees will move into a regular meeting, scheduled to begin at 7:00 PM. They will hear a report on graduation data and will be presented with two first briefings: bid pack 4 for the Mitchell expansion and TRIG purchases. Superintendent Jeanice Swift will report out on her recent trip to China.

5:30PM Walked in on the last of the ribbon cutting ceremony at the  W. Scott Westerman, Jr. Preschool and Family Center.

5:44 PM President Deb Mexicotte calls study session to order. Trustees Susan Baskett and Andy Thomas are not present, as they are traveling this evening. Vice President Christine Stead, Trustees Donna Lasinski, Patricia Manley, and Simone Lightfoot are in attendance.


Mexicotte: only item on study session agenda is FY 2016-17 budget. No changes are made to the agenda.


Swift says it should be an auspicious evening for their budget, as they had honored W. Scott Westerman tonight.

Been talking for weeks and months about this budget. Bringing forward a plan, first of several events that they will be “buttoning down a budget.” Board must pass a balanced budget by June 30.

Swift says: Without special education millage approval and given potential state budget:

  • maintain a flat, tight budget
  • maintain current programming with phased enhancements over time
  • no excess funds available

If special education millage is approved, will attend to the following district priorities:

  • build fiscal stability and strengthen fund balance (currently at about 8%)
  • continue enhanced programming implementation, eg: complete elementary Project Lead the Way
  • employee compensation
  • infrastructure: facilities maintenance and repairs

Jill Minnick, executive director of finance, will highlight proposed budgets coming out of Lansing.

State Aid Proposals (Governor, House, Senate):

  • all three proposals yield same result
  • $60/pupil foundation increase
  • MPSERS (Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System) flow-through funding to continue, anticipate no impact

AAPS Budget Assumptions:


  • foundation allowance increase $60/pupil: +$1,026,240
  • 25 teacher retirements and replacements: +$875,000


  • 12 additional FTE hires at $85,000/FTE: $1,020,000
  • Hourly employees: $449,655

Budget Projections: 

  • total revenues: $213,322,211
  • total expenditures: $212,553,537
  • net change: +$768,674

With these changes, the district would anticipate a fund balance increase of 0.3% from 8.1% to 8.4%.

AAPS Fund Balance trend is heading up. While the fund balance dropped to about $8.8M in 2013-14, it is projected to be over $17M for the 2016-17 year.

Continue preliminary budget discussions:

  • Confirm outcome of special education millage (May 3)
  • Consider impact from Revenue Consensus Estimating Conference (May 17)
  • Continue to monitor enrollment

Board adoption of a balanced budget prior to June 30, 2016 (in accordance with state law):

  • Approve notice calling for public hearing on budget (May 11)
  • Second board study session (May 18)
  • First briefing and public hearing (May 25)
  • Second briefing and approval of the budget (June 15)

Lasinski asks if the fund balance would increase by an even greater percentage if the special education millage passes. Mexicotte replies that it would be within the board’s purview to direct where that additional money would go.

Stead compliments Swift and Minnick and team, saying it is a “conservative” plan. They have not budgeted for an increase of student enrollment. It is “not a statement to the public” that the district would not like additional students, but it is that the district is not planning on it in the budget. Stead says they think they will be “okay” with this kind of planning. With crises such as Flint water and DPS, the district cannot count on the funding increases from the state.

Lightfoot asks if there is a number the district is aiming for when it comes to increased enrollment. Swift replies that there has been over 500 applications for Schools of Choice, which are not included in the budget projections. She noted that kindergarten and Young 5s and high schools have seen a fair demand. Focused on monitoring enrollment and staffing, come June and July.

When asked by Mexicotte, Swift says they are still determining if there will be a second Schools of Choice application window. The initial application window closed yesterday.

Stead: without the special education millage, the district is expecting to “stay the course.” If the community approves the millage, the district will be able to invest and maintain an “exceptional” school district. Since the 1994 Proposal A, there is very little that can be done by a district to impact their operating budget. This millage would give local control over local money.

The board had directed Minnick to show the AAPS foundation allowance trend over the past 12 years, given inflation. The foundation allowance in 2004-05 was $9,234, or $11,641 in 2016 dollars. The projected foundation allowance for 2016-17 is $9,230.

Lasinski asks for clarification on the MPSERs flow-through. Minnick says that for 14-15, anticipated about a $1M variant in what was coming through from the state and what the district would need to pay. Budgeted for it. The state has not yet announced what dollar amount the state is giving each district. Minnick says that they will budget for the variance again this upcoming year.

Mexicotte and Lasinski appreciate the mechanism of the flow-through for MPSERS. It benefits retirement system, but it is not an increase to educational system.

Stead: looking ahead 20-30 years from now, it should be expected that the state education budget to increase, given the state’s obligations to MPSERS. This perpetuates the storyline that the state education budget is “getting bigger and bigger,” but it does not  take into account that the budget increase is not going to more money into the schools.

Lightfoot muses on the amount needed for a fund balance. Mexicotte says there has always been a tension between paying for programs and building the fund balance.

Stead believes a fund balance of 15% is ideal, as it allows for enough money to cover unexpected expenses. She cites a time in the district where the board had needed to cut $10M from the budget mid-year.

Mexicotte says that current boards never want to tie their own hands by committing. But if priority is 15%, then set an ideal of placing $500,000 into fund balance each year. If they want to hit that range in a certain amount of time, they need to set into policy She advocates for putting it into board policy to make it harder for future boards to not follow it without having policy discussion.

When Lightfoot directly asks Mexicotte what she believes the fund balance should be, Mexicotte says she would go with a 15% target.

There a couple of guiding lights for Lasinski when it comes to the fund balance. She says they cannot let themselves go below the early warning line and they need to pay teachers over the summer without borrowing. She wants for them to have planned and budgeted to not have to get through the school year. A 15% fund balance is a best practice.

Manley advocates holding back in putting money into the fund balance, as she doesn’t want to diminish programming in the district.

Mexicotte maintains that the way they’ve grown the fund balance in recent years by being frugal and by growing the district enrollment is the right way to do it. The fund balance has increased by taking any money left over, rather than setting a hard line from the onset.







Community High student report: Dean Marcy introduces four students who share the purpose, vision, and beliefs of Community.

Highlights: positive relationships and integrated content; equitable awareness; creative and relevant instruction; encourage students to pursue their passions.

The students underscore partnerships between CHS and the greater Ann Arbor community. The Community Resource (CR) program is alive and well at CHS.

Diversity Council: working on improving understanding of race at Community. Diversity is increasing in the school.

Manley is impressed with increased diversity and the involvement of the Diversity Council.

Stead asks what the “best surprise” has been at Community. One of the students says it was all about the teachers, saying they are like “smarter friends who are trying to make me be smarter, too.” Another student recognizes the block schedule. Another student says he appreciates being a full-time student at Community but can be athletes at the other comprehensive high schools. The last student cites the support at Community.

Manley acknowledges Community’s Dean Marcy, saying how well she works with the students.


7:44 PM While no report per se, Mexicotte wants to acknowledge the ribbon cutting of the W. Scott Westerman Preschool and Family Center that occurred earlier in the evening. The Westerman family is putting together a financial endowment for special needs for families who utilize the Westerman Center, continuing the “largesse” of their family.


It’s a “beautiful match between man and mission,” says Swift, speaking of Scott Westerman and the preschool center that bears his name.

Highlights: Office professional day; various awards around the district: Beth McNally, Wines Elementary vocal music teacher; CHS Tempus Fugit jazz combo DownBeat award; Carolyn Moss – top vocalist in the state.

Swift briefly shared a bit about her China trip: six cities in 10 days; sharing about AAPS to principals, signed sister school agreements. Trip was successful, has a number of partnerships forged in China. Will be giving a more in-depth report at a later date. Any resources generated from the BCC partnership will be put back into teacher and student exchanges.

District officials met with some of the partners behind the AA Connector, lightrail in Ann Arbor. Proposed to take some 35,000 commuters off the streets and put them on to light rail. District is giving the AA Connector its support.

TedxYA2 at Skyline High School – students from across the area presented TedX talks.

Celebrated the AAPS Educational Foundation 25th year.

Encourages everyone to vote this Tuesday, May 3 on the special education millage.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2015 Graduation Data

8:08 PM Swift: looking at patterns of graduation data

2015 AAPS graduation rate: 89%. Swift says that next year, they want to bring an over 90% rate. National is 82%, state is 80%.

African American grad rate up 8.4%, special education up 3.5%, bi- or multi-racial up 1.6%.

Areas to focus on: get above 90% graduation rate; increase graduation rate of economically disadvantaged students.

Over a five-year period (from 2011-2015), there has been a 5% increase in graduation rate, from 83.6% to 88.6%.  Five-year trend by ethnic group – all subgroups are up over the five years. Shows “durable and sustainable” change.

Also compares district data to county-wide data, high performing and comparable districts. Ann Arbor is on the low end of high performing and comparable districts.

Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) was implemented beginning with Cohort 2011: increase from 21 to 22 credits; increase from 2.0 to 4.0 Math credits, increase from 0.5 to 1.0 Arts credit; increase from 2.0 to 3.0 Science credits.

2011-2015 5-year change in district high schools

  • Community (93% to 96%)
  • Huron (87% to 94%)
  • Pioneer (91% to 94%)
  • Skyline (94% to 95%)
  • Pathways to Success (37% to 62%)

Lightfoot thanks Manley for her classroom insight. She also appreciates the team did what they said they were going to do, focused on closing the gap. It’s “phenomenal” the change that she has seen over the past years she’s been on the board.

Lasinski wants to know difference between high-performing and comparable schools. High performing districts are not similar regarding demographics. Comparable schools are more likely to be like AAPS, based on size, race, ethnicity, poverty, percentage of special education students.

Manley is pleased to see that Community, Pioneer, Huron, and Skyline share similar graduation rates now. There was a sense in the district several years ago, she says, that Huron was “slipping.” Appears to not be the case any longer.

Stead: took a bold move by discontinuing district participation in WAY program that only had an 11% graduation rate and creating Pathways to Success campus, combining Clemente and Stone Schools. Story in An Arbor: figuring out how to educate students with even the most challenging of situations. On their way to helping create a society of not just haves and have nots.

Mexicotte pleased to see rates. This has been a “concerted, intentional effort” the community has made in changing the outcomes of students wherever they fall on the economic and racial spectrum, she says. By supporting education with the kind of underpinning philosophy of equity, access, the whole boat rises.

Swift says they will be employing  a variety of different strategies to increase the


Performance: Reviewed the graduation data, along with focus school and summer school data.

Planning: Reviewed Mitchell expansion bid pack 4 that will be coming up for first briefing tonight. One more bid pack after this. Planning has a lot of meetings this time of year, as they are looking at work needed to be done while students are out of the buildings over the summer.

Mexicotte notes that there is a “yin and yang” between the performance and planning committees, as performance meets more frequently in the fall.

Governance: meeting May 20, looking at space-available transportation for Schools of Choice students.


8:49 PM Swift: on time and on budget so far with Mitchell Elementary expansion.

Jen Hein, director of facilities and operations, presents a chart on expenditures on Mitchell expansion year-to-date. She then presents Bid Pack 4 items:

  • Site work: Recommendation to go with Diversified Excavating & Site Utilities of Ypsilanti  for $298,755.00.  Diversified Excavating pays their operators in the range of $24-$28/hr.  Prevailing wage is approximately $30/hr.
  • Casework/Cabinetry: same standard at Northside STEAM. Recommendation to go with Farnell Contracting from Fenton, MI for $112,800.
  • Metal Doors and Hardware: Recommendation to go with Stafford Building Products of Westville, OH at a cost of $30,712. FBH didn’t get the consideration, as it was not indicated that they were a local firm.
  • Resilient Flooring: Recommendation to go with Shamrock Flooring in Ann Arbor for $29,321.
  • Painting: Recommendation to go with Continental Contraction from Hazel Park, MI for $24,000. The lowest bidders did not complete the RFP.
  • Landscaping: Recommendation goes to Margolis Companies of Ann Arbor for $18,650. Margolis is a union vendor and pays prevailing wage.

Lightfoot asks why there is such a range of bids between companies. Stead posits that it is because there are some new companies who might be testing the K-12 market and bidding high. Hein says they don’t always know the overhead costs of each of those businesses.

Mexicotte says the board has had an evolving conversation on the practices of the board on prevailing wage. Have struggled with coming up with a policy that can weather variances in the economy, etc. She’ll be happy to place it on the agenda of the next governance committee to begin talking about it.

Stead: it would be wonderful to invest more in landscaping in the future across the district. Would like to be maintain landscaping for all the schools, as it is an important statement to the community.

Mexicotte notes that when they did the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP), landscaping was an important part of it. Wondering if they shouldn’t have some sort of note to be looking at water drainage, treatment, etc, as they continue to make landscaping improvements.

As there has been more building in the city, Lightfoot says, prioritizing where landscaping can be revisited would be ideal.


9:19 PM Merri-Lynn Colligan,

AAPS applied for the TRIG grants. Received money from the state and there is now about $200,000 remaining – use those funds to enhance devices instructionally, 33 servers to maintain application for state assessments, 9 caching servers, 60 iPads, 280 ChromeBooks, warranties. $195,695 all out of $200,000 remaining money from TRIG grants.

Lasinski says a lot of wonderful technology that they can bring into the district at no cost, using grant money: thumbs up.

BOARD ACTION ITEM – Non-renewal of contract

9:24 PM Swift: in the process of working on systems across district to become more efficient. Over the past year and a half, re-org in Rec and Ed, SISS, and Technology. Under Jill Minnick, coming through a reorganization for finance department. Asking that the board will consider a non-renewal of contract for a position in the finance department. Swift says the position is being eliminated after the reorganization. According to the resolution, the employee had the opportunity to come in front of the board on April 13 to offer reasons to keep his/her job but did not.

Manley is clearly uncomfortable with this vote. She asks why this employee’s position is being eliminated. Swift clarifies, saying that with the re-org, the position no longer exists.

Resolution passes, 4-1, with Manley voting against.


9:31PM Stead says that she and Lightfoot are having their coffee klatch this Saturday 11-12:00 at Mighty Good Coffee on Main Street.

Lasinski: school is closed on May 3rd for elections. Asking all families to come up to vote. All dollars raised by the millage in Washtenaw County stay in Washtenaw County. Vote yes on the millage, she says.


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