Superintendent’s Corner– School Funding 101

By Clare Superintendent Doniel Pummell

Let’s start with an assumption: Remember… I am an optimist, a glass half full person.  The Clare Community wants the very best for its youth.  I have seen countless examples of this since moving here three years ago with my family.  We have a stellar community!  Our area attracts business and families because we are positive, supportive and rich in small town values. We provide the experiences that many want to encounter, capture and share now and into the future.

Sadly, many have experienced economic struggle.  Times have not been easy for our country, state and area.  Businesses, individuals and schools have had to do more with less more than is “fair.”  Over the course of time, we have all done our best to weather these economic storms.

Let’s take a look at the current school funding system.

In March of 1994 voters passed Proposal A.  This changed school funding from an individual district voted tax based system to a state capped controlled system.  In other words, prior to proposal A districts could ask for more and more money from the voters.   Now this is not the case.  All property types except Industrial Personal Property are taxed at 6 mills for the State Education Tax.  All Non- homestead property- non principal residence exemption is taxed an additional 18 mills. This totals 24 mills.  This was intended to increase equity and lower taxes.  The 18 mills are considered a school’s “operational” millage.  Schools must go to the voters and ask for approval of this millage. A district may not levy more than 18 mills.  Our current 18 mill Operational expires December of 2014.

A second component of funding is the Foundation Grant.  This is an amount of money that schools receive per student.  This rate varies and it NOT the same in every district.  For example, Clare receives just under $7000 per student, and there are schools that receive over $9000 per student.  We have a count day in the fall and one in the spring.  The count is blended 90% -10% respectively.  If students move between districts throughout the year, the state of Michigan is working on a way to determine how the Foundation Grant is to be shared between the schools.  This should be interesting. Our count day was very positive.  In the spring we had 1504 students and this fall we had 1534!  We do not have our “official” report on our count from the Regional Education Service District, RESD as of yet, but we are excited with our growth from spring to fall.

Schools do have a few options.  If a school would like to ask the voters to assist with a funding source that can help with repair type items for the district, not including buses, technology or salaries, the district can put to the voters a sinking fund vote.  These can be in any amount for any number of years.  It can be renewed for years and years as supported by the people.  Other options are regular bond proposals that can handle all types of projects as deemed appropriate by the people, school officials and Board of Education.

It is the power of the community that makes the greatest difference for the students related to alternative funding options.  Clare Public Schools has a talented staff, strong and committed Board of Education, supportive community with amazing students… Pioneers always lead the way!

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