By Tom Tolen /

The overall budget for the Brighton Area Schools is looking much brighter these days, with the revised figures presented to the Board of Education earlier this week.

Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance Mike Engelter told the board that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and all the problems it has caused, he is expecting the fund balance to increase to a healthy $7.9 million. Engelter told WHMI that, in his words, “Our beginning fund balance was $7.6 million, so as currently projected, we are hoping to increase fund balance by about $250,000.” Engelter attributed the improved financial outlook to a number of factors, but largely to the extra federal assistance.

Last year, Brighton Area Schools officials steeled themselves for expected cutbacks of $650 or more per student as the state and federal governments grappled with the problems caused by the pandemic. As a result, the budget as originally passed last June was under $79 million — a major decrease from the $82.1 million budget originally passed. However, as it turned out, the cutback in per-pupil state aid never came. To the contrary, additional state and federal revenue sources have arrived through COVID relief packages. As a result, the amended 2020-21 budget passed at Monday night’s meeting now totals $86.4 million. Federal revenues have increased from just under $500,000 to $3.8 million, and state revenues (the majority in the form of per-pupil state aid) have risen from $61.1 million to $66.7 million.

On the expense side, there is a big increase in basic instructional programs, which have gone up about $5 million. “This went up considerably due mainly to the addition of the Brighton Virtual Academy instructional staff, as well as additional staffing in (the district’s Shared Services) programming to accommodate additional students,” Engelter said. The BVA is a virtual program begun last fall for online instruction of students who have chosen that method over in-classroom learning. Yet another expense has been paying the additional staff hired through the Shared Services program — which is for small parochial and private schools which can’t afford to pay the cost of certified teachers to teach the courses. These classes involve so-called “core curriculum” subjects such as English, math, science and social studies. In Shared Services, also known as “Shared Time”, the public school district providing the program pays the salaries of the certified teachers, but is allowed to claim the students for purposes of per-pupil state aid. The Shared Time program has been a great revenue enhancer for Brighton, and is largely credited for getting the school district out of deficit. Engelter is projecting that Brighton will have about $3 million left over to utilize for other needs after all expenses of the 20-21 Shared Time program have been paid. Brighton has the largest shared time program of any school district in the state - with approximately 2,500 fulltime equivalent students.

Because of course cancellations and virtual learning resulting from COVID, programs and services such as community education and food service have suffered greatly, and the expected revenues from those sources - which were not forthcoming - had to be absorbed into the overall budget.

Despite such setbacks, overall, the revenue picture in the Brighton Area Schools is much healthier now than had earlier been expected.

The board may be discussing the budget as part of a scheduled workshop session Monday evening at 6 p.m. The meeting will be available on Zoom, and those wishing to attend virtually may do so by simply going to the district’s website (, scrolling down on the bottom left to “Announcements” and clicking on the coding under “join Zoom meeting”.