Cass City Board of Education faces tough choices with $480,000 deficit

By Tom Gilchrist
For The Advertiser

CASS CITY — The Cass City Public Schools Board of Education meets Monday night at 6:45 p.m. trying to decide how to cut up to $480,000 from the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and debating whether to hire a chief financial officer after the resignation of Mike Klosowski.

The school board learned of the resignations of Klosowski, maintenance man Randy Schuette, payroll bookkeeper Linda Bennett and superintendent’s secretary Ets TerBush at the board’s June 9 meeting.

Instead of replacing Klosowski, Bennett and TerBush — all of whom worked in the superintendent’s office — Superintendent Jeff Hartel proposed moving a secretary into that office and hiring a full-time chief financial officer to succeed Klosowski, who worked part-time.

“No $9.5 million business does not have some type of financial officer overseeing their business,” Hartel said, referring to the school district, where the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Before deciding to seek a full-time chief financial officer, board members directed Hartel to contact the Huron Intermediate School District and Tuscola Intermediate School District about providing services of such an officer.

Hartel said the intermediate school districts could provide such services, but only part-time.

“They don’t have enough people to do it full-time, but we still have payroll and insurances to do,” Hartel said. “You still have to do your notes for borrowing money. I’m not advocating for a part-time chief financial officer — only if that other position of (Bennett’s) is filled, to do payroll, to do all the benefits, accounts receivable.”

Hartel said Thursday the school district is looking at about $480,000 in cuts. But if Gov. Rick Snyder signs an education-spending bill that would increase Cass City’s state aid by $175 per pupil, it would lower the size of the budget cuts Cass City needs to make before July 1, according to Klosowski.

If Snyder signs the bill, Cass City would have to cut the new budget by “$300,000 some” due to declining enrollment and rising costs, Klosowski said Thursday.

Klosowski resigns from Cass City as of July 1. He works full-time as chief financial officer for the Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Schools but also had worked part-time at Cass City this school year.

At the June 9 meeting, board members received written suggestions from staff members on how to save money. Several suggestions were critical of Klosowski and other administrators. Hartel said that before Klosowski submitted a letter of resignation, Hartel had asked Klosowski about reducing his time spent as Cass City’s CFO from two days per week to one.

“In doing that, I think that upset him, so I think it’s partly my fault,” Hartel told the board. “I think it’s partly the criticism he received on this teacher (feedback form) here, about getting rid of the CFO and ‘Fire Mike (Klosowski), fire Jeff (Hartel), fire Nick (Moyer).’ And ‘Eliminate the CFO — we don’t trust his numbers.'”

“I don’t think we can say that, Jeff,” board member Janine Meeker told Hartel. “Because you know what? (Staff members) gave their honest opinions. They came forward. I — as a businessperson — can tell you that someone wants me fired every other day. If they don’t like me today because I wrote them up, then they want me fired. We have to have thick skins as teachers, or as accountants.”

Klosowski told The Advertiser he didn’t resign due to criticism.

“I don’t let that get to me at all,” he said. “That’s just part of the job.”

Klosowski also said he was planning to resign from his Cass City duties even before Hartel asked him about cutting his time at Cass City to one day per week.

Klosowski said “a few districts” contract with the Huron or Tuscola intermediate school districts for services that otherwise would be provided by a chief financial officer.

“Basically the intermediate school district hires somebody and ships that person out to the local district, and the local district pays just like it would pay for anything else,” Klosowski said.

Meeker suggested that in the wake of the resignations of Klosowski, Bennett and TerBush from the superintendent’s office, Cass City could realize a “huge savings” there by having someone work part-time as financial officer and by hiring a payroll clerk for the office.

“I mean, in the past, superintendents did their responsibility — correct?” Meeker asked.

“In the past, superintendents were not athletic directors,” Hartel replied. “They were not transportation directors. It’s just like a teacher now; it’s not the same in the classroom as it was 10 years ago. It’s certainly not the same — and all due respect to Mr. (Ken) Micklash, but when he was (superintendent) here he basically did the finances on a pen and paper with a ledger, and … whatever the bills were given to him, he would put it on his ledger. Now they go directly into Skyward (school-administration software) and that is updated almost on a weekly basis.”

Filed in: Local News, Featured Articles, Cass City

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