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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

More and more schools falling into budget squeeze

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan delivered troubling news to a legislative panel last week:

--One in 10 traditional K-12 school districts in Michigan (55 of 549) are operating in a budget deficit.

--The number of deficit districts has doubled since 2008, when only 27 were in the hole.

Two charts from different sources paint an interesting picture of the increasing fiscal stress for schools in recent years and suggest that districts and policy-makers must keep a close eye on districts’ financial health

The first chart is from the recent Citizens Research Council of Michigan’s report: “Funding for Public Education: The Recent Impact of Increased MPSERS Contributions”. The chart displays total per-pupil funding provided to school districts since 2004 and separates funding into two categories: (a) the amount needed to meet obligations to the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS); and (b) the “post-MPSERS” amount remaining to cover all other needs.

While overall funding to school districts has increased marginally since 2004, the amount needed to meet retirement costs has eaten up a greater portion of these revenues. MPSERS contributions equated to 8.7 percent of per-pupil revenues in 2004, but grew to 14.8 percent by 2012.

Focusing on the per-pupil revenue left over after meeting these increasing retirement obligations, the chart shows that, when adjusting for inflation, remaining revenue has declined by 8.8 percent for all public education entities (traditional and charter schools) since 2004. The CRC report looks at the same figures for only traditional K-12 school districts, and the situation is even worse with post-MPSERS revenue per pupil falling by 13.1 percent over this same time period after adjusting for inflation.

In short, the rapid growth in public school employer costs related to MPSERS has limited revenues available for other educational purposes.

The challenges presented by this crowding-out effect were then compounded by the significant per-pupil funding reductions implemented by the Legislature in 2012 to address structural deficits in the state budget and by declining enrollments, with the number of pupils in the public school system statewide declining from 1.71 million in 2004 to 1.55 million in 2012, a 10.5 percent drop.

State School Aid Fund dollars are distributed on a per pupil basis, so some districts have faced the “double whammy” of fewer per pupil dollars available and fewer pupils drawing those funds. The combined impacts of all these factors have left public schools more financially constrained than they were a decade ago.

The second chart, Munetrix’s fiscal “Stress Meter,” gives an overview of fiscal indicator scores across the state and over time. Just as Munetrix has adapted and modified the state’s fiscal indicator scores for municipal governments (highlighted by Bridge Magazine a few weeks ago), Munetrix has worked with school officials to calculate fiscal indicator scores for school districts. (See Munetrix methodology here.)

Districts receive a “1” if calculated ratios exceed certain thresholds. The lower the number, the more fiscally sound a school district is determined to be. Munetrix has divided the school districts into three categories of scores grouped by color -- shades of green, blue and red.

It is clear on this chart that the number of school districts considered in fiscal distress (those in shades of red) and those with mild levels of fiscal stress (shades of blue) are increasing on a yearly basis, and that the number of school districts with minimal levels of fiscal stress (shades of green) are decreasing. This fiscal scoring system identifies 62 school districts (11 percent) that are in varying levels of fiscal distress and another 106 school districts (19 percent) that show signs of distress and should at least be on the radar of state officials because they could worsen without remedial actions at the local or state level.

Analysis of the data on the Munetrix website show that school districts in all regions of the state are suffering increased levels of fiscal stress. If your school district is not in the blue or red shade of Munetrix’s color coding scheme, chances are pretty good that a district close to you is. Clearly part of the problem lies in the changes in resources made available to school districts (as described above).

More and more school districts are facing fiscal stress.  It is not a problem found in only urban or rural school districts. Nor is it unique to those districts for whom urban abandonment and mismanagement has led them down the path to deficits. The problem appears to cross all these boundaries.  Perhaps most alarming, the data suggests fiscal stress is spreading into new districts where it was not evident before. Of the 62 districts scored as having high fiscal stress (7 or higher) in 2012, 30 of those same districts scored as having minimal stress (3 or below) just four years prior.

Policy prescriptions for dealing with fiscally-stressed districts vary depending upon which prescriber you ask. Some point to the negative impact of recent funding reductions and the need for more state funding to prop up district resources.  Others ask why Michigan continues to have 549 locally-controlled traditional school districts in the wake of declines in enrollment. Regardless, however, of your prescription for the problem, there is one thing on which virtually everyone agree. In order to combat fiscal stress, you need to recognize that it’s arrived.

Searchable database of fiscal stress scores
School DistrictEnrollment2009201020112012
Adams Township School District4494435
Addison Community Schools8803445
Adrian, School District of the City of31222235
Airport Community Schools26564545
Akron-Fairgrove Schools2852334
Alanson Public Schools3218631
Alba Public Schools1802457
Albion Public Schools7345567
Alcona Community Schools8003334
Algonac Community School District18944434
Allegan Public Schools26672104
Allen Park Public Schools37851113
Allendale Public Schools24951334
Alma Public Schools22212202
Almont Community Schools15362255
Alpena Public Schools39614457
Anchor Bay School District62741455
Ann Arbor Public Schools166961324
Arenac Eastern School District2594546
Armada Area Schools20363323
Arvon Township School District81222
Ashley Community Schools2884569
Athens Area Schools5838767
Atherton Community Schools8103124
Atlanta Community Schools2684447
Au Gres-Sims School District3887633
Autrain-Onota Public Schools432223
Avondale School District37905545
Bad Axe Public Schools11251124
Baldwin Community Schools5645322
Bangor Public Schools (Van Buren)12547656
Bangor Township S/D #8223533
Bangor Township Schools25230112
Baraga Area Schools5091124
Bark River-Harris School District7370001
Bath Community Schools10314321
Battle Creek Public Schools53484556
Bay City School District83043455
Beal City Public Schools7060114
Bear Lake Schools3581123
Beaver Island Community School682112
Beaverton Rural Schools13237424
Bedford Public Schools47071337
Beecher Community School District13633337
Belding Area School District20153445
Bellaire Public Schools4434579
Bellevue Community Schools5957777
Bendle Public Schools21471112
Bentley Community School District8073443
Benton Harbor Area Schools28269877
Benzie County Central Schools16353343
Berkley School District47652223
Berlin Township S/D #3252323
Berrien Springs Public Schools25700001
Bessemer Area School District4495575
Big Bay De Noc School District2433544
Big Jackson School District363343
Big Rapids Public Schools19354322
Birch Run Area Schools18010001
Birmingham City School District83650002
Blissfield Community Schools12612221
Bloomfield Hills Schools55171212
Bloomingdale Public School District11862325
Bois Blanc Pines School District21122
Boyne City Public Schools13553334
Boyne Falls Public School District2063344
Brandon Public Schools32851235
Brandywine Community Schools13890002
Breckenridge Community Schools8314425
Breitung Township School District16694543
Bridgeport-Spaulding Community School District14645799
Bridgman Public Schools9833211
Brighton Area Schools63786788
Brimley Area Schools4971222
Britton Deerfield Schools7612201
Bronson Community School District11211325
Brown City Community Schools9261214
Buchanan Community Schools16090113
Buckley Community Schools4410002
Buena Vista School District4357678
Bullock Creek School District19334421
Burr Oak Community School District2875313
Burt Township School District363445
Byron Area Schools11150137
Byron Center Public Schools35974211
Cadillac Area Public Schools30311112
Caledonia Community Schools45200001
Calumet Public Schools14912433
Camden-Frontier School5726645
Capac Community Schools13071347
Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools43561357
Carney-Nadeau Public Schools2461134
Caro Community Schools18592111
Carrollton Public Schools19910001
Carson City-Crystal Area Schools9565444
Carsonville-Port Sanilac School District5541246
Caseville Public Schools2591222
Cass City Public Schools10842547
Cassopolis Public Schools10671124
Cedar Springs Public Schools34211001
Center Line Public Schools27231322
Central Lake Public Schools3423225
Central Montcalm Public Schools16970246
Centreville Public Schools8800123
Charlevoix Public Schools10491577
Charlotte Public Schools26803344
Chassell Township School District2684313
Cheboygan Area Schools19083104
Chelsea School District24882324
Chesaning Union Schools16163257
Chippewa Hills School District22074443
Chippewa Valley Schools164690212
Church School District232114
Clare Public Schools15311002
Clarenceville School District18813221
Clarkston Community School District80432224
Clawson Public Schools17561112
Climax-Scotts Community Schools5333233
Clinton Community Schools11231122
Clintondale Community Schools33586544
Clio Area School District34940113
Coldwater Community Schools28650113
Coleman Community Schools7322234
Colfax Township S/D #1F242231
Coloma Community Schools17484322
Colon Community School District6352235
Columbia School District14622336
Comstock Park Public Schools22654312
Comstock Public Schools20064212
Concord Community Schools7991357
Constantine Public School District14282111
Coopersville Area Public School District25000002
Corunna Public Schools21401003
Covert Public Schools4898776
Crawford Ausable Schools16412113
Crestwood School District36590002
Croswell-Lexington Community Schools22561335
Dansville Schools8683201
Davison Community Schools56000002
Dearborn City School District191753332
Dearborn Heights School District #728504546
Decatur Public Schools9113566
Deckerville Community School District6165543
Deerfield Public Schools269555 
Delton Kellogg Schools14617523
Detour Area Schools1442344
Detroit City School District513629988
Dewitt Public Schools30232424
Dexter Community School District35490001
Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools3090212
Dowagiac Union School District22921223
Dryden Community Schools6501244
Dundee Community Schools16181101
Durand Area Schools16155556
East China School District45541224
East Detroit Public Schools38389988
East Grand Rapids Public Schools30030112
East Jackson Community Schools12356557
East Jordan Public Schools10284455
East Lansing School District35383313
Easton Township S/D #6345535
Eaton Rapids Public Schools25491126
Eau Claire Public Schools8576321
Ecorse Public Schools10445667
Edwardsburg Public Schools27000113
Elk Rapids Schools14251124
Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Schools9182334
Ellsworth Community School2183321
Elm River Township School District82224
Engadine Consolidated Schools2771224
Escanaba Area Public Schools25223354
Essexville-Hampton Public Schools17922326
Evart Public Schools9421346
Ewen-Trout Creek Consolidated School District2457765
Excelsior Township S/D #1501112
Fairview Area School District3214211
Farmington Public School District113132223
Farwell Area Schools14804235
Fennville Public Schools14342001
Fenton Area Public Schools35093443
Ferndale Public Schools34872202
Fitzgerald Public Schools28683457
Flat Rock Community Schools18944424
Flint City School District84478789
Flushing Community Schools41271113
Forest Area Community Schools6222347
Forest Hills Public Schools100940001
Forest Park School District4757645
Fowler Public Schools5661001
Fowlerville Community Schools29131223
Frankenmuth School District11602212
Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools5302212
Fraser Public Schools53214433
Free Soil Community Schools34545
Freeland Community School District18231113
Fremont Public School District22162234
Fruitport Community Schools29740135
Fulton Schools10583332
Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools11343434
Galien Township School District915598
Garden City Public Schools47704314
Gaylord Community Schools31750113
Genesee School District8105656
Gibraltar School District37510113
Gladstone Area Schools15102323
Gladwin Community Schools18071213
Glen Lake Community Schools7812222
Glenn Public School District400123
Gobles Public School District8643435
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools18022112
Godwin Heights Public Schools22231212
Goodrich Area Schools21111213
Grand Blanc Community Schools87441013
Grand Haven Area Public Schools60861112
Grand Ledge Public Schools51041212
Grand Rapids Public Schools175516431
Grandville Public Schools56460003
Grant Public School District19563446
Grant Township S/D #262102
Grass Lake Community Schools12491222
Greenville Public Schools37661003
Grosse Ile Township Schools18472433
Grosse Pointe Public Schools83610125
Gull Lake Community Schools31631222
Gwinn Area Community Schools12231115
Hagar Township S/D #6653444
Hale Area Schools5527677
Hamilton Community Schools26432334
Hamtramck School District29008776
Hancock Public Schools8318644
Hanover-Horton School District12331145
Harbor Beach Community Schools5533223
Harbor Springs School District8601235
Harper Creek Community Schools25734212
Harper Woods, The School District of the City of14872534
Harrison Community Schools14995443
Hart Public School District12080014
Hartford Public Schools13811012
Hartland Consolidated Schools54911212
Haslett Public Schools27284443
Hastings Area School District28143225
Hazel Park, School District of the City of41525556
Hemlock Public School District12514654
Hesperia Community Schools11511101
Highland Park City Schools9367910
Hillman Community Schools5181323
Hillsdale Community Schools14462334
Holland City School District4182434 
Holly Area School District34210148
Holt Public Schools58130002
Holton Public Schools8911135
Homer Community School District10612223
Hopkins Public Schools16782113
Houghton Lake Community Schools15963322
Houghton-Portage Township School District13753233
Howell Public Schools78600001
Hudson Area Schools9486865
Hudsonville Public School District62690002
Huron School District24671114
Huron Valley Schools98500012
Ida Public School District14650014
Imlay City Community Schools21641224
Inkster City School District22956568
Inland Lakes Schools8122546
Ionia Public Schools30862234
Ionia Township S/D #2183101
Iron Mountain Public Schools11174435
Ironwood Area Schools of Gogebic County8975444
Ishpeming Public School District No. 18456544
Ithaca Public Schools12832323
Jackson Public Schools61181446
Jefferson Schools (Monroe)20462223
Jenison Public Schools47931223
Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools7762446
Jonesville Community Schools14822211
Kalamazoo Public Schools126871112
Kaleva Norman Dickson School District6224433
Kalkaska Public Schools16072101
Kearsley Community School District32692234
Kelloggsville Public Schools22501213
Kenowa Hills Public Schools33151433
Kent City Community Schools13083211
Kentwood Public Schools87311223
Kingsley Area Schools14300001
Kingston Community School District6350112
Laingsburg Community Schools11323413
Lake City Area School District11462222
Lake Fenton Community Schools19891002
Lake Linden-Hubbell School District5165435
Lake Orion Community Schools76060113
Lake Shore Public Schools (Macomb)35751113
Lakeshore School District (Berrien)28760001
Lakeview Community Schools (Montcalm)13064435
Lakeview Public Schools (Macomb)39253101
Lakeview Sch. District (Calhoun)38560001
Lakeville Community School District14912558
Lakewood Public Schools20562112
Lamphere Public Schools29100001
L'Anse Area Schools7183333
L'Anse Creuse Public Schools116041234
Lansing Public School District125551446
Lapeer Community Schools59074656
Lawrence Public Schools6862213
Lawton Community School District9980002
Leland Public School District4601312
Les Cheneaux Community Schools2908743
Leslie Public Schools13663332
Lincoln Consolidated School District43924435
Lincoln Park, School District of the City of48446554
Linden Community Schools29642433
Litchfield Community Schools3114545
Livonia Public Schools School District159062333
Lowell Area Schools38220001
Ludington Area School District22423676
Mackinac Island Public Schools862333
Mackinaw City Public Schools1927447
Madison District Public Schools13135533
Madison School District (Lenawee)15802221
Mancelona Public Schools10021213
Manchester Community Schools11901112
Manistee Area Public Schools16952433
Manistique Area Schools9042234
Manton Consolidated Schools9442014
Maple Valley Schools12135777
Mar Lee School District3274335
Marcellus Community Schools7724436
Marion Public Schools5754464
Marlette Community Schools9913324
Marquette Area Public Schools31074422
Marshall Public Schools22602213
Martin Public Schools6003353
Marysville Public Schools26992212
Mason Consolidated Schools (Monroe)11582235
Mason County Central Schools14133334
Mason County Eastern Schools4735897
Mason Public Schools (Ingham)30483313
Mattawan Consolidated School37872103
Mayville Community School District7313335
McBain Rural Agricultural Schools10681223
Melvindale-North Allen Park Schools28432111
Memphis Community Schools9621103
Mendon Community School District6652312
Menominee Area Public Schools15602347
Meridian Public Schools13097522
Merrill Community Schools7404443
Mesick Consolidated Schools6585423
Michigan Center School District13971334
Mid Peninsula School District2312543
Midland Public Schools80971225
Milan Area Schools24111003
Millington Community Schools13891113
Mio-AuSable Schools6393222
Mona Shores Public School District38001225
Monroe Public Schools61401314
Montabella Community Schools8005745
Montague Area Public Schools15032325
Montrose Community Schools13832678
Moran Township School District811224
Morenci Area Schools7191147
Morley Stanwood Community Schools12793456
Morrice Area Schools6086443
Mount Clemens Community School District157488910
Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools24813345
Mt. Pleasant City School District34981222
Munising Public Schools6655543
Muskegon Heights School District133789 
Muskegon, Public Schools of the City of47143556
Napoleon Community Schools14412134
Negaunee Public Schools15511111
New Buffalo Area Schools6471214
New Haven Community Schools13455666
New Lothrop Area Public Schools9120001
Newaygo Public School District17085346
NICE Community School District12164554
Niles Community Schools38830014
North Adams-Jerome Public Schools3992547
North Branch Area Schools24412334
North Central Area Schools4401224
North Dickinson County Schools3093458
North Huron School District4613322
North Muskegon Public Schools9970002
Northport Public School District1622113
Northview Public Schools34501233
Northville Public Schools73111332
Northwest Community Schools28102443
Norway-Vulcan Area Schools7534645
Nottawa Community School1403335
Novi Community School District63772223
Oak Park School District43875798
Oakridge Public Schools19153334
Okemos Public Schools39412344
Olivet Community Schools15430012
Onaway Area Community School District6732455
Oneida Township S/D #314  35
Onekama Consolidated Schools3924522
Onsted Community Schools15292324
Ontonagon Area Schools4284566
Orchard View Schools25584324
Oscoda Area Schools12943324
Otsego Public Schools23572212
Ovid-Elsie Area Schools17230114
Owendale-Gagetown Area School District1995432
Owosso Public Schools32624686
Oxford Community Schools54090002
Palo Community School District782334
Parchment School District18033203
Paw Paw Public School District22682211
Peck Community School District4602346
Pellston Public Schools6521233
Pennfield Schools20931101
Pentwater Public School District2841112
Perry Public Schools13976779
Pewamo-Westphalia Community Schools6630001
Pickford Public Schools5330014
Pinckney Community Schools39864326
Pinconning Area Schools14404666
Pine River Area Schools11742323
Pittsford Area Schools6802324
Plainwell Community Schools27370112
Plymouth-Canton Community Schools182232112
Pontiac City School District469189910
Port Hope Community Schools803445
Port Huron Area School District95644544
Portage Public Schools87531102
Portland Public Schools20562202
Posen Consolidated School District No. 92574675
Potterville Public Schools9244444
Powell Township Schools454223
Public Schools of Petoskey29472111
Quincy Community Schools12394314
Rapid River Public Schools3864543
Ravenna Public Schools11163244
Reading Community Schools8382113
Redford Union Schools, District No. 128935768
Reed City Area Public Schools15422458
Reese Public Schools8782222
Reeths-Puffer Schools38220003
Republic-Michigamme Schools1427754
Richmond Community Schools16455444
River Rouge School District12339877
River Valley School District6604334
Riverview Community School District28701234
Rochester Community School District150531112
Rockford Public Schools80035422
Rogers City Area Schools5621333
Romeo Community Schools54381003
Romulus Community Schools30151368
Roscommon Area Public Schools13563334
Roseville Community Schools51835776
Royal Oak City School District52055211
Rudyard Area Schools811   6
Saginaw City School District76976678
Saginaw Township Community Schools48730002
Saline Area Schools53111225
Sand Creek Community Schools9440001
Sandusky Community School District10162324
Saranac Community Schools11361212
Saugatuck Public Schools8521111
Sault Ste. Marie Area Schools25005322
Schoolcraft Community Schools11022222
Shelby Public Schools13944355
Shepherd Public Schools17783222
Sigel Township S/D #3F111013
Sigel Township S/D #4F193556
Sigel Township S/D #682213
Sodus Township S/D #5742334
South Haven Public Schools21430002
South Lake Schools21331356
South Lyon Community Schools73431212
South Redford School District32601013
Southfield Public School District76396755
Southgate Community School District50463557
Sparta Area Schools27160013
Spring Lake Public Schools24711112
Springport Public Schools10383201
St. Charles Community Schools11221224
St. Ignace Area Schools6413334
St. Johns Public Schools31491001
St. Joseph Public Schools28351001
St. Louis Public Schools11282422
Standish-Sterling Community Schools16453224
Stanton Township Public Schools1525444
Stephenson Area Public Schools6673654
Stockbridge Community Schools15451124
Sturgis Public Schools32880113
Summerfield Schools7222225
Superior Central School District3640226
Suttons Bay Public Schools6956887
Swan Valley School District17941212
Swartz Creek Community Schools39921347
Tahquamenon Area Schools7645546
Tawas Area Schools12770123
Taylor School District730835710
Tecumseh Public Schools29553322
Tekonsha Community Schools2983355
Thornapple Kellogg School District30851223
Three Rivers Community Schools27211111
Traverse City Area Public Schools100442333
Trenton Public Schools26542345
Tri County Area Schools21750114
Troy School District124041222
Ubly Community Schools7921112
Union City Community Schools10892211
Unionville-Sebewaing Area S.D.7883202
Utica Community Schools288292322
Van Buren Public Schools52285656
Van Dyke Public Schools29365668
Vanderbilt Area Schools1413668
Vandercook Lake Public Schools12760013
Vassar Public Schools13433468
Verona Township S/D #1F264422
Vestaburg Community Schools6782344
Vicksburg Community Schools26204321
Wakefield-Marenisco School District2862123
Waldron Area Schools3077766
Walkerville Public Schools3054434
Walled Lake Consolidated Schools152772222
Warren Consolidated Schools153891214
Warren Woods Public Schools33980001
Waterford School District108401113
Watersmeet Township School District1764446
Watervliet School District13422323
Waverly Community Schools28103333
Wayland Union Schools28232332
Wayne-Westland Community School District121883433
Webberville Community Schools6163113
Wells Township School District145533
West Bloomfield School District63494645
West Branch-Rose City Area Schools21782325
West Iron County Public Schools8936323
West Ottawa Public School District74010002
Western School District29370001
Westwood Community School District25359876
Westwood Heights Schools8505688
White Cloud Public Schools10695888
White Pigeon Community Schools7901123
Whitefish Township Schools464323
Whiteford Agricultural School District of the Counties of Lenawee and Monroe6811123
Whitehall District Schools21822434
Whitmore Lake Public School District10783113
Whittemore-Prescott Area Schools9734566
Williamston Community Schools18824312
Willow Run Community Schools14258877
Wolverine Community School District3362333
Woodhaven-Brownstown School District49441234
Wyandotte, School District of the City of46653221
Wyoming Public Schools46310345
Yale Public Schools20800114
Ypsilanti City School District33717768
Zeeland Public Schools58060002
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