Pontiac may push for stimulus flexibility

PONTIAC, Mich. - The Pontiac School District budget for 2009-2010 rests on using stimulus dollars in a way that is not allowed, according to school officials, and the district as well as Oakland Schools may pay two Washington, D.C., legal firms in an effort to persuade the federal government to relax the rules, The Macomb Daily reported.

Pontiac has reduced spending by $16 million, but has another $7.6 million to go in order to make payroll and continue operations in the coming year, the report said. It wants to shift stimulus funds allocated to the Title I program for disadvantaged children into the general operations budget to cover the overspending, according to The Daily.

That's not allowed under stimulus regulations, but the school board learned at a recent meeting that Oakland Schools, the area intermediate district, will chip in $25,000 in legal fees to "win some flexibility," Pontiac school attorney George Pitchford said, according to The Daily.

Pontiac already hired the legal firm Brustein & Manasevit earlier this year; Oakland has offered to pay $5,000 toward that effort, The Daily reported. Oakland also has offered to pay up to $20,000 to the firm Hogan and Horston, according to the report, but Pontiac would have to pay bills over that amount. The firms charge $250 to $300 an hour, and $300 to $600 an hour, respectively, The Daily reported.

Trustees asked whether funds should be spent on expensive attorneys, given the district's finances, according to The Daily, and were told that next year's budget already is based on moving about $7.3 million in stimulus funds to general operations. The board will consider Oakland's offer again at its Aug. 17 meeting, The Daily said.

The Macomb Daily, "Pontiac schools seek federal stimulus money," Aug. 5, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit not the only school district seeing red," June 30, 2008