Michigan schools see deficits


For The Daily News

LANSING – A record-high 55 Michigan school districts are operating with deficits, including four in the Upper Peninsula.

However, this year’s final tally of financially troubled districts could drop below last year if 10 get back into the black as expected this summer.

According to the Michigan Department of Education’s required quarterly update to lawmakers – which was closely watched this week because of a number of recent school developments across Michigan – North Dickinson County Schools, Hancock Public Schools, North Star Academy and Menominee Area Public Schools all had deficit fund balances as of June 30, 2012.

North Star Academy was one of two to have a fund balance projected to be in the black at the end of this month. According to the report, In June 2011 the school had a deficit in its fund balance of $91,710. It gained ground with a $28,222 deficit in June 2012 and is projected to have a positive balance of $17,704 by the end of this month.

North Dickinson schools had a June 2011 positive balance of $18,014, then dropped to a deficit of $16,171 by June 2012. It is projected to climb back into the black at the end of this month, with a positive fund balance of $6,993.

Hancock Public Schools had an $840,667 deficit in its June 2011 fund balance and a $770,596 deficit in its June 2012 balance, according to the report. It is projected to still have a $694,015 fund balance deficit at the end of this month.

Menominee schools had a positive balance in June 2011 of $718,741, but then had a dramatic drop, with a deficit of $129,287 by June 2012. It is projected to drop further by the end of this month, ending with a fund balance deficit of $388,951.

Other school districts in Michigan caught statewide attention after taking drastic measures to deal with their financial woes.

Buena Vista School District near Saginaw was forced to shut its doors for nearly two weeks after running out of money to pay teachers. Albion Public Schools between Jackson and Battle Creek decided to close the high school next school year. The Pontiac School District is headed toward a financial emergency that could result in the appointment of a state manager.

Three districts already are being overseen by managers.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan told legislators on K-12 budget panels that most of the state’s 549 districts plus 278 charter schools balance their budget every year.

The state should have a final count of deficit districts for this academic year by late fall. Districts with $1 million-plus deficits are projected to rise from one a decade ago to 30 at the close of this school year.

Jackie Stark’s email address is jstark@miningjournal.net.