Sunday, October 7, 2012

On the Ballot: The Willow Run/Ypsilanti Possible Consolidation

I'm going to try to do an occasional series in the next month on issues that will be on the ballot in November.

First up: the Willow Run/Ypsilanti schools possible consolidation.

I knew that the possible consolidation would be on the ballot, but it was only last week that I found out that there will actually be two ballot questions regarding the consolidation. Question #1 asks whether the school districts should consolidate. Question #2 asks for funding for the consolidation.

I asked Scott Menzel, the WISD Superintendent, a few questions about the votes. He offered to do an interview with me, and I may take him up on it. I'm just providing the most basic information right now. I'd like to collect your questions about the potential consolidation--just put them in the comments. (Here's an example of mine: What happens to the collective bargaining agreements? How will teachers be assigned to schools? Which schools will be used?)

My first question to Scott Menzel was: Where would I get the actual language of the ballot questions? 

And lo, it was provided:

Obviously, if both of these proposals pass, consolidation happens. If they both fail, consolidation doesn't happen. If the consolidation fails but the millage passes (unlikely!), the millage does not take effect--that is even written into the ballot language.  But what happens if the consolidation passes but the millage fails? (I could definitely see this happening.)

Per Scott: "If consolidation is approved and the operating millage is not, the consolidation will take place and the new district will need to revisit the millage in the future (the State expects that each district levies 18 mills on non-homestead parcels as that value is calculated into the foundation grant)."

In other words, the new district will have to go back to the voters and ask, again and again, for funding, until it is approved. The district can't exist without funding.

So then, I asked, how does this compare to what current Ypsilanti and Willow Run families are paying now for their millage? What will the per-pupil funding be if consolidation happens? (Currently, Ypsilanti per-pupil funding is $7513/student and Willow Run per-pupil funding $7310/student.)

Answer: If both parts pass, the millage rates in the two districts will remain the same as they currently are--there will be no change.

But there is a change in the per-pupil funding. That is, there will be a blended payment "that would equate to the same amount as if each district were still receiving their separate foundation grant."

See the problem here? Ypsilanti is the bigger district, and their per-pupil funding is higher--and averaging the payments could reduce the amount of money that the consolidated district gets. 

Scott Menzel did say this: "We have raised this issue as a concern to the chair of the school aid committee and hope to get language in the school aid budget this year that would give a newly consolidated district the higher foundation grant for all students."

All well and good, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that. It's my understanding that some school districts up north previously tried to convince the legislature that consolidating districts should get the higher foundation grant, and they got turned down. If the legislature does approve it, then I think you could expect a rush of consolidations. Why wouldn't everyone in the county want to consolidate with Ann Arbor, which has a per-pupil payment of over $9,000? And that would cost the state some real money. . .

Send me your questions about the consolidation--just put them in the comments!  And there are several meetings about the consolidation coming up (posted in the top right-hand corner of the blog). 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Ruth.

    Here is a good website:

    The issue of a fair foundation grant is concerning. I wonder, though, how much less money Ypsi already receives, given how many WR school-of-choice students we have. Maybe the loss wouldn't be as great as we think. (Well, one can hope.)

    More comments as I think of them!

    - YpsiAnon