Price of DPS plan could spike

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

A big piece of the governor’s plan for Detroit schools revolves around splitting the district in two — a move that would isolate the debt from the ongoing work of educating kids.

For that to work, however, Gov. Rick Snyder is counting on the 18 mills Detroit Public Schools’ currently collects on businesses and second homes to pay down the debt. To compensate for the loss of local funding, the governor wants the Legislature to offer DPS up to an additional $72 million a year.

Lawmakers are already hesitant to offer DPS a bailout. And some are worried that the state may have to shell out even more. Snyder estimates it could take a decade to pay off DPS’ debt.

The school property tax is up for renewal in 2022. While that’s years off, if Detroit voters don’t renew it, the state would be on the hook for a much larger sum.

Take what just happened in Buena Vista Township. Voters last week rejected renewing the same tax, which was supposed to go toward paying down the now-shuttered Buena Vista School District’s debt.

The Legislature in 2013 dissolved the district because of its significant debt-load and poor academic performance. Students now attend neighboring districts.

That left $725,000 in debt, but residents clearly didn’t buy the argument they should continue paying for a district that no longer benefits them.

This could happen in Detroit, too.