In November residents in the Ann Arbor and Whitmore Lake school districts will decide if annexation plans move forward. Ann Arbor Public Schools officials think decisions made in the coming weeks in Lansing will be important to voters.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the district wants to be able to share the amount the district will receive from a state grant for combining schools, per pupil funding, and tax implications well in advance of the November vote. All of this information is still up in the air at the state level.
Michigan has $4.3 million available for costs associated with consolidating school districts and Ann Arbor has requested the entire amount. A total of 33 applications were made for these grants but State Representative Adam Zemke says Ann Arbor is in the preferred category that has traditionally received all of these funds. The grant announcement is expected by the end of this month.
As far as per-pupil funding, the current state formula of blending the two districts and adding $100 per student would result in Ann Arbor receiving a slight decrease on a per student basis. Swift says a proposal in Lansing would result in more money per student. "Would ask for an additional 150 dollars per student on top of the blended formula. So that would give us an additional amount of money," she says.
Zemke and Representative Bill Rogers from Brighton are backing this plan. They're also working with the Treasury Department to address concerns that all bond debts have to be repaid within the first year of an annexation. Without a change this would cause a one-year spike in tax bills for both communities.
While Ann Arbor officials are looking to Lansing for answers to these questions, School Board President Deb Mexicotte says the two districts are also working locally to ensure annexation makes sense. "Look in a visionary way to building a bigger district by merging, being stronger, combining administration and efficiencies and in the end creating more opportunities for not just the 1,000 students in Whitmore Lake that will be coming into the Ann Arbor Public Schools, but for all of our students," Mexicotte says.
Swift says the first priority remains getting as much information out to the community. She says then they will trust the decision voters make November fourth.