Amid all the discussions of state revenue shortfalls and cuts to school aid, what is not being discussed are the huge general fund surpluses that most local public school districts in Michigan maintain on an annual basis. Everyone is aware of the down turn in the economy and the loss of state revenues. The state is utilizing the Federal Stimulus money to maintain student foundation grants at the current level for 2009-2010 school year, but school officials around the state are forecasting a huge shortfall for the 2010-2011. As a result districts are demanding concessions at the bargaining table; they are privatizing support staff at an alarming rate, and are urging the legislature to adopt a state wide health insurance plan for all school employees.
What the legislature is not talking about is the growing amount of unused state tax dollars that local schools districts and ISD’s maintain in their general fund surplus balances. At the end of June 2008 K-12 public school districts and ISD’s reported $1.9 billion of unspent general fund tax dollars. The time has come for the legislature to pass “Use It or Lose It” legislation. School districts would be required to spend down their unrestricted general fund surpluses to a reasonable level in order to qualify for a full foundation allowance. This would translate into hundreds of dollars per pupil across the state and would offset any predicted short fall in state aid. Contact State Representative Darwin Booher and urge him to support “Use It or Lose It” legislation for Michigan’s public schools.