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Flint, MI— Flint Community Schools is exploring steps to eliminate their $18 million deficit.
The district is considering a partnership with the Department of Treasury for a $48,000 grant to pay for consulting services that will inform a deficit elimination plan, which is being required by the State of Michigan.
A potential Memorandum of Understanding—a nonbinding agreement between entities—will help FCS gain critical data to guide their decision making.
Deputy Director of Finance Ayunna Dompreh presented an overview of the MOU to board members during a special meeting on April 28. It identifies “responsibilities of the parties involved” to provide financial support for several consulting services.
Plante Moran Cresa, a commercial real estate advisor, is slated to perform the assessments. It is the only state-approved company for this type of work, Dompreh said.
They will be charged with the following assessments.
Pupil Enrollment Projection
The MOU allocates $4,000 to a pupil enrollment project study. This is a district-wide and grade-specific cohort analysis on all students. It will take approximately one week to complete.
Building Utilization Assessment
Fifteen thousand dollars will be used for a building utilization assessment. This includes a school-by-school assessment of current enrollment compared to capacity and utilization. It will incorporate the findings from the student enrollment projection study and include a student heat map for a visual graphic of current student population compared to the existing school locations. It will take five weeks to complete.
Capital Planning Facility Assessments
Twenty-four thousand dollars will be used for an in-depth look at FCS’s 11 school buildings. It will provide a 10-year strategic capital plan that will detail each building’s critical needs, property enhancements, and the costs of those enhancements. If construction is needed, the report will also include funding sources for the district to consider. It will take four to five weeks to complete.
Five thousand dollars will be allocated to a program assessment, the final step. It will analyze FCS’s current educational and support services for each school and provide alternatives for consideration. This will be performed in conjunction with the building utilization assessment. It will take two to three weeks to complete.
“The data provided from these services will support the development of the enhanced deficit elimination plan for the district,” Dompreh said.
Once all the assessments are complete, Plante Moran will present their findings to the board.
The district’s staggering deficit has been fueled by a dwindling student population. Since 2009, student enrollment has decreased by 70% and the district has been unable to downsize fast enough, causing severe budget problems, officials say.
For many of FCS’s elementary schools, the amount of state aid, which is determined by a school’s student headcount, and property tax revenue is not enough to cover operation costs.
“The majority of our buildings can’t sustain themselves. So, I believe, our footprint is too large for the amount of students that we have. So, we need to reduce our footprint. And, in doing so, that would mean that we need to reduce the amount of buildings that we have open to help us facilitate that,” Dompreh said during a budget workshop on Feb. 4.
FCS also owns 22 buildings that are currently sitting vacant, and the assessments will help FCS determine what to do with the properties.
Though the board has considered downsizing as one possible deficit elimination strategy, a separate, but not yet official MOU involves a $340 million multi-tiered plan with the corporation of several local organizations to build five new school buildings.
The possibilities will continue to be discussed in future board meetings over the next year.
An official vote on the partnership with the Department of Treasurery will be taken at the board’s next regular meeting on May 19.