Contents of this issue:

  • School tax rates in Kalamazoo County go up without a vote
  • Oxford district’s AstroTurf could cost some their homes
  • Whitehall saves by switching to high-deductible health plan
  • Michigan districts start testing teacher evaluation methods
  • Audit alleges Genesee district administrator misspent funds

School Tax Rates in Kalamazoo County Go Up Without a Vote

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – School taxes are set to increase in Kalamazoo County, even though residents did not vote on the matter, MLive reports.

Many districts are raising their rates in response to a decline in taxable value, according to MLive, in an effort to get the same amount of revenue received in better economic times.

MLive explains that the increase in rates is possible due to the way school districts take on debt. In order to make bond payments, MLive reports, districts can increase the debt tax levy.

“You can’t argue that it’s not a tax increase, because it is,” Steve Goss, assistant superintendent at the Vicksburg school district, told MLive.

SOURCE: MLive, “Majority of Kalamazoo County properties see school tax rates go up as real-estate values go down,” Aug. 24, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Should Reform School Lending System, March 20, 2012

Oxford District’s AstroTurf Could Cost Some Their Homes

OXFORD, Mich. – Oxford Public Schools has until Sept. 1 to come up with $300,000 to pay for its new football field turf, according to The Oakland Press. If the district doesn’t come up with the money, several community members could lose their homes.

In 2010, voters rejected a proposed bond to pay for the field, according to The Press. Instead, the district took out a $400,000 loan, and five community members put their homes up as collateral.

So far, $100,000 has been raised, according to the Oakland Press.

“It’s not typical, but given the circumstances we didn’t want the kids to have to start the school year without the field, so we came up with a creative solution,” Rich Jordan,  vice president of sales and marketing for AstroTurf LLC, told The Press.

SOURCE: The Oakland Press, “Oxford families hope community can pull together to pay off blue turf field,” Aug. 20, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Oxford Schools: Saving Money and Improving Service," June. 11, 2010

Whitehall Saves by Switching to High-Deductible Health Plan

WHITEHALL, Mich. – The Whitehall teachers union and the Whitehall school board have agreed upon a new contract, according to MLive.

The new contract will freeze wages, suspend teacher “step” salary increases, and switch teachers to a high-deductible health plan, MLive reports.

Whitehall Superintendent Jerry McDowell told MLive that the health insurance change will save the district $300,000.

SOURCE: MLive, “Whitehall teachers contract includes ‘high deductible’ insurance, wage freeze,” Aug. 25, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Affordable HSA Insurance Growing," Aug. 1, 2012

Michigan Districts Start Testing Teacher Evaluation Methods

PORT HURON, Mich. – Fourteen school districts are testing different teacher evaluation models for statewide consideration, the (Port Huron) Times-Herald reported.

The Times-Herald reported that the Port Huron Area School District, one of the 14 test districts, will use both its existing teacher evaluation model as well as the one it is trying for the state.

The goal of the pilot program is to find a teacher evaluation model that is reliable and objective, reports the Times-Herald, and can fit within recent legislative changes to teacher tenure.

SOURCE: (Port Huron) Times-Herald, “Port Huron Area School District to test teacher tests,” Aug. 24, 2012
FURTHER READING: Michigan Education Digest, “Forthcoming Study Finds Evaluation May Help Teachers Improve,” Aug. 14, 2012

Audit Alleges Genesee District Administrator Misspent Funds

GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. – The Genesee Intermediate School District has fired a top-level administrator, and a state education department employee has been placed on leave, MLive reported.

The GISD fired the administrator, Beverly Knox-Pipes, after reviewing an audit that alleges that more than $87,000 had been misspent, according to MLive.

MLive reports that the audit raises questions about money spent on cell phones, computers and travel, and alleges that one California conference for which Knox-Pipes received travel reimbursement “does not seem to exist.”

The audit also states that Knox-Pipes took trips with Barbara Fardell, manager of educational technology at the Michigan Department of Education, reports MLive.

In one email exchange included in the audit, MLive reports, after realizing that more than $1 million remained in a grant, Fardell wrote: “You and I may have to take some trips WAY far away to spend this much money!! LOL!!”

SOURCE: MLive, “Lawmaker calls for accountability, state education department worker put on leave as details of GISD investigation emerge” Aug. 24, 2012
FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Eliminate Intermediate School Districts,” Aug. 21, 2003

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Michael Van Beek at mailto:med@educationreport.org

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