Governor Rick Snyder is pushing Michigan municipalities and school districts to adopt what he calls “best practices.” For cities, villages, and townships, that means three things: accountability, consolidation, and benefits. For schools, he adds two more: health insurance ownership and outsourcing.
The governor’s plan, enacted by the legislature, uses a carrot-and-stick approach. The stick is that municipalities will lose all revenue sharing and schools up to $500 in per-pupil funding if they don’t go along. The carrot, which is really only a baby carrot, is that if they cooperate, schools can get back up to $300 per pupil and municipalities up to two-thirds of their 2010 revenue sharing.
For Saline and Chelsea, that’s real money. “We’re eligible for $100,816,” says Saline city manager Todd Campbell. Chelsea adminstrator John Hanifan says his city could get up to $51,643. Both adminstrators say their cities should get all they’re eligible for.
On accountability, Campbell says, the governor wants a “‘dashboard’ on our website so citizens can see our budget and other things, and we’re on track to have that up by October 1.” On accountability, he adds, Saline has collaborated with other governments for years: “The Saline Area Fire Department shares services between the city and Saline, York, and Lodi townships and has done so since 1974.” Campbell says the city also has made progress toward the state’s cap on employee retirement contributions and minimum health-insurance payments.
Chelsea’s Hanifan notes that his city already collaborates with the Chelsea Area Fire Authority, the Chelsea District Library, the Chelsea Area Construction Agency, the Chelsea Area Senior Center, and half a dozen other groups.
The governor’s plan hardly matters in Dexter—assistant manager Courtney Nicholls says the village is eligible for just $4,000—but “we do collaborate, just like everybody else.” In Scio, Pittsfield, and Dexter townships, it doesn’t matter at all: because they previously didn’t get any statutory revenue sharing, they won’t get any this time, either. That “dismayed me,” says Dexter Township supervisor Pat Kelly. “If they want us to cooperate, why not give us an incentive?”
All local school districts are eligible to reclaim part of their lost funds. And all expect to get that money, because they, too, already are doing most of what the governor wants.
“I’ve been on the school board since 2004,” says Dexter board of education president Larry Cobler, “and even back then we were sharing Internet service providers and having central blanket purchase agreements for technical support. Now all substitute teachers are run through the county, and the county has consolidated transportation.”
Saline superintendent Scot Graden says his district complies with all five best practices—or will soon: “we’re the [insurance] policyholders for all but the faculty, and that’ll happen this year.”
Superintendent David Killips says Chelsea “lost $470 per student from last year, but it’s our intent to qualify for all five best practices so we could get up to $217 back. What we have to do is bid out one of our non-educational services because we already do everything else.”
Although some educators say the governor’s best practices could push schools into bankruptcy, neither Killips nor Cobler sees that happening. “There are many things that could push some school districts over the edge financially,” writes Cobler in an email. “While the Governor’s actions may contribute, my guess is the economy and district management would have more to do with it.”