Michigan District Declares Financial Emergency, Temporary Shutdown

Students in Buena Vista schools in Michigan haven’t been to class since last Friday, mlive reports, and it is expected the classrooms will remain vacant for days more. The district, which educates about 420 students, found itself in severe financial difficulty after the state declined to turn over education funds for the next three months as a penalty for district overcharging.

As a result, Buena Vista has no money to pay the salaries of its staff.

Earlier this week, the Board of Education voted to retain only three staff members employed by the district and lay off the rest.

Michigan Board of Education is refusing to turn over state aid payments for at least the months of April, May and June because Buena Vista accepted nearly half a million dollars to educate a number of students from the Wolverine Secure Treatment Center who are no longer part of the district.

The Board of Education will meet next at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at Buena Vista High School, 3943 E. Holland. Jackson said the board plans to declare a financial emergency. About 100 people attended an informational community meeting on Tuesday evening at the high school. Parents and students said the meeting didn’t answer their questions about the district’s future.

Board President Randy L. Jackson hopes that the declaration of emergency will mean the release of some emergency funding from the Michigan Board of Education to help the district continue operating. In order to facilitate the release of the money, the district plans to submit a deficit elimination plan to the state BoE.

At the moment, Buena Vista School District is running a $1 million budget deficit on top of the payments on a $2 million loan from the state treasurury that is has to make this August.

Withholding of state aid isn’t the only problem facing Buena Vista – one of the worst-performing districts in the state. It is also attempting to balance its resources to deal with a student population which is today barely half of what it was only three years ago.

Buena Vista School District since 2010 has lost nearly $3 million in state funding because of declining enrollment. Richard Syrek, Saginaw Intermediate School District superintendent, said the district’s financial situation stemmed from a combination of a rapid decline in students and administrators not reacting quickly enough to declining state aid.

Syrek says that leaders are not willing to make the needed cuts because they don’t want to lose programs. Yet the administrators – who were caught completely flatfooted by the declines in both student numbers and aid – don’t seem to have a plan to deal with the budget crisis in any other way.

Until the crisis is resolved, students have no school to attend.