June 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Report: Fewer school districts will end year in deficit, but DPS' will deepen

Fifty-two Michigan school districts and public school academies ended the 2013 fiscal year last June 30 in the red, according to the quarterly report State Superintendent Mike Flanagan submitted to the Legislature.

But 10 of those believe they will get into the black by this June 30, which marks the end of the 2014 fiscal year, and 27 say they’ll reduce their deficit in fiscal 2014.

“This is just a snapshot, so what this means is we always have districts coming out of deficits and those going into deficit. It’s just a fact of life in Michigan,” said Michigan Department of Education spokesman William Disessa.

“For now, as State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said, this is a positive because we have a reduction in deficit districts, and this is because they seem to be getting better at identifying those deficits and working with the Michigan Department of Education to eliminate them,” Disessa said.

Among the districts that project to eliminate their deficits by June 30 are New Haven Community Schools, Avondale and Oak Park in Oakland County, and Michigan Math and Science Academy in Centerline.

Districts that began the 2014 budget year in debt and expect to end it with an even larger one include Pinckney Community Schools, Detroit Public Schools and Highland Park Public School Academy.

According to the report, DPS had a deficit of $93.8 million in June 2013, and by the end of this month, its deficit is projected to reach $120.3 million.

Highland Park Public School Academy’s deficit was $620,248 in June 2013, and is projected to balloon to $802,885 by the end of the month.

DPS spokesman Steve Wasko said the district has been faced with budgetary and financial challenges since 2006.

He said the general fund deficit has ranged from as high as $327 million to a low of $76.5 million.

“We are in line to eliminate the legacy deficit and show a positive fund balance by the conclusion of the 2017-18 fiscal year,” he said.

“There has been strong progress. For example, over the last five years alone, DPS has reduced its expenditures in areas that will not directly harm our classrooms by over $225 million.”

Wasko said the district's long-term success will be driven by its ability to improve quality, raise standards and increase enrollment.

“Enrollment stabilized within the past year for the first time in some 17 years,” he said.

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