Rider takes concerns to state officials

Published 7:34 am Thursday, November 11, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Brandywine Public Schools Superintendent Gary Rider took a road trip to Ann Arbor Tuesday.
Rider, along with officials from three other school districts, traveled to Ann Arbor to meet with the state board of education to bring attention to a crisis facing many schools in the state of Michigan.
Like many superintendents across the state, Rider received word that the Michigan Legislature's revenue estimating conference had been moved up to the end of November, from late January of 2005.
The last time an executive order was issued, state funding per-pupil to local schools was reduced to its current level of $6,700 per-pupil.
One of the reasons there is such a budget crunch among school districts across the state is the poor implementation of Proposal A.
Proposal A was a 1994 ballot proposal which sought to relieve property tax burden for citizens while at the same time, providing adequate funding for schools.
Before Proposal A was passed, property taxes across the state of Michigan were 34 percent above the national average, while the state sales tax rate, then at four percent, was 32 percent below the national average.
The reason property taxes were so high was because school aid was provided by local millages paid by the taxpayers, Rider explained.
Proposal A lowered property taxes and eliminated local millages as a means to fund schools. Schools would now receive a fixed, per-pupil amount of state funding to fund local schools.
The per-pupil funding was provided by the School Aid Fund, which was funded by the increased six percent sales tax rate and a new state education tax in addition to other sources of funding.
Rider explained that one downfall of Proposal A is the dependance of the School Aid Fund on the state sales tax as a source of funding.
In a study of Michigan school finances under Proposal A conducted at Michigan State University, it was determined that the funding sources for the School Aid Fund were never adequate to satisfy the promises made by the State legislature to Michigan's public schools.
As a result of the inadequate funding, the state has had to transfer an average of $500 million per year from the state's General Fund to the School Aid Fund.
As a result of the inadequate funding, Brandywine Public Schools is looking at a third straight budget deficit for the 2004-05 fiscal year.
In a recently updated budget, Brandywine Public Schools reported the fund equity as being about $2.2 million dollars as of June 6, 2004. The fund equity is projected to drop to just under $1.6 million by the end of the 2004-05 school year.
Rider stressed that Proposal A is not the "root of all evil" as some may make it out to be.