When public school districts go into "deficit" — that is, have to borrow because annual spending exceeds what they collect from local, state and federal taxpayers — they are often characterized as "victims," as if the overspending were either someone else's fault or an unavoidable natural disaster.

Take for example the Albion school district, which is one of those that have managed itself into having to borrow to cover normal operating expenses.

State and local records going back to 1999-2000 show that enrollment has been in a decline for 15 consecutive years. The district went from having 2,027 students in 1999-2000 to just 539 last year. Given that Michigan public school funding levels are tied directly to annual student counts, the district’s annual revenue has also fallen sharply.

Yet according to the Battle Creek Enquirer, when Albion school district administrators and members of the school board sat down craft a budget for 2015-16, they projected an increase of 15 students — despite the district's long history of consistently losing students.

However, predictably in the official student tally last month, the count came in at 454 for the new school year, a decline of 85 students. That makes this the 16th consecutive year the district has experienced a drop in enrollment.

Overspending has consequences: Albion is already in a financial hole, which is now deeper due to the school board's unrealistic enrollment projections. This triggers various state oversight measures, and the Battle Creek Enquirer reports that among the options discussed by state officials are Albion Schools merging or being annexed by another school district.

The newspaper quoted resident Mike LaNoue in its story, whose two children graduated from the Albion district, and who attended the latest school board meeting to tell its members this: “This item on the agenda, special items to be considered, it says here that it’s an unforeseen decline in enrollment. I think you better put a bracket around that because if you didn’t see this coming, I’d say the handwriting was on the wall big enough for Stevie Wonder to read it.”

ForTheRecord says:  What Mr. LaNoue said.

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