Officials warn of payless paydays for Detroit schools in wake of funding flap

Joel Kurth
The Detroit News

Detroit — A funding feud between the Detroit Board of Education and the district’s emergency manager could lead to payless paydays, officials say.

The school board on Thursday rejected Emergency Manager Jack Martin’s request to float $111 million in bonds to cover bills until the district receives funding payments from the state of Michigan. That’s a common practice among districts statewide, but the Detroit board asserted the district only needed $81 million and authorized that amount instead.

Now, there’s a possibility that bonds won’t be issued for months, prompting payless paydays to start Aug. 19, said board member Jonathan Kinloch. The district can’t levy more than one bond per year and $81 million isn’t enough, said Kinloch, who sides with Martin in the feud.

The action prompted a blistering statement Friday from Martin to board president Herman Davis.

“Thanks to your action (or lack thereof), there is a possibility that services critical to the opening of schools will not be available until much later in the year,” the letter read.

“...I cannot fathom how, as a body, you could so cavalierly act to harm the children of the district in this manner. It goes against what we should all stand for, not only as district and community leaders, but more importantly as adults and role models for our children.”

Davis said the threat of a payless payday is “rhetoric” and countered that Martin failed to supply information justifying borrowing $111 million. The board relied on information from two accounting firms to determine $81 million would be enough, he said.

He said Martin “wants us to do whatever (he) wants without giving us any information. There’s no transparency in how the EM operates.” The threat of a payless payday is “rhetoric,” Davis said.

“They must think we are a bunch of dummies,” Davis said. “It’s about time we put our foot down.”