NOTE: The News-Herald Newspapers' Dave Komer reported today on issues related to the dissolving of the Inkster School District. With that move by the the State of Michigan, Taylor is one of four surrounding districts that will receive students from Inkster.
TAYLOR — A district already wrestling with major issues discussed Monday the uncharted waters it will be treading due to the state dissolving the Inkster school system.
Taylor stands to gain about 370 Inkster students among those who were redistributed among four contiguous districts that also include Dearborn Heights Westwood, Romulus and Wayne-Westland.
The unexpected enrollment increase was one of the big topics examined at the first Board of Education meeting since the announcement a few weeks ago.
The district held a registration drive Monday (see related blog post) for the displaced families and enrolled 150 students, with seven on hold needing more documentation. Some have already registered, but all must be enrolled by Sept. 3, the first day of school.
Earlier Monday, 32 teachers were called back from 51 who were laid off in June. The layoffs had taken effect prior to the addition of Inkster students.
Although school Supt. Diane Allen called the drive positive, ripple effects of the state’s July 23 decision still are being dealt with.
The district has 7,650 students and 96 schools-of-choice enrollees. It is not clear how many current students will leave for other districts under schools of choice or how many former Inkster students earmarked for Taylor also will go to other districts.
Taylor, which has a $60 million budget, is in the first year of a three-year deficit-elimination plan to resolve a $19- million deficit. Chief Financial Officer Shawn Stirling said that, as of June, the district’s budget was in line with the deficit-elimination plan.
The plan will be adjusted next month due to the changes, Stirling said.
Trustee Deborah Stellini said she is not comfortable calling back all 32 teachers with the outside chance that enrollment projections might be off, or that the number of returning district students could drop. Calling herself a “glass half-empty” person, Stellini expressed concern about having to lay off some of the teachers again.
Stirling said the 32 teachers represent a cost of $1.9 million, but that with the 150 Inkster students enrolled that day, it would bring in an additional $1.1 million. With the 150 and 96 schools-of-choice students enrolled, that would be $1.8 million — if there were no additional Taylor students lost.
“We had initially 19 or 20 teachers laid off and you guys directed us to lay off an additional 32 for the deficit-elimination plan, which it was based on,” Stirling said to the school board.
Allen said the 32 teachers have classroom assignments and adjustments might have to be done once school starts. School board President John Reilly said one alternative would be to have a substitute at the beginning of school. He said both options — having too many teachers called back and then having to lay some off, or not having enough teachers at the start of school and beginning with substitutes — are far from ideal but “are a reality of life.”
Stellini said she has heard some parents in the community were upset the school board was not allowed to vote on whether to take the displaced Inkster students. An added expense, she said, will be determining how to handle the three Inkster school buildings that are now Taylor’s responsibility.
“We do not know the true cost of taking them into our district,” she said. “We have to pay for our utilities for the buildings that are there. We may have to tear down one of their buildings. We have to look at the equipment inside and take them here. We need to be conservative on our budget.
“Where is the curriculum material coming from? Where are the seats, the bus drivers? Where are the secretaries and cooks coming from?”
Stirling said that as of Friday the district has to budget for lawn maintenance, utilities and building security. She said the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency will be pulling a year of bills for Inkster to provide districts with anticipated costs.
One source of revenue is two years of sinking school funds, or about $1 million. However, RESA will be holding that money to split it among the schools. The money has to go toward Inkster buildings.
Of the three buildings going to Taylor, one is boarded up and has trees growing through the middle of it, Stirling said.
“We have to get a cost of the asbestos abatement and if RESA would consider covering the cost of demolition, within reason,” she said. Allen said the state is giving the school districts absorbing the Inkster district an additional 10 percent for the new students as a transition cost. Another issue had to do with busing. Stirling said that although Inkster outsourced busing, the district had five buses. Three of the four absorbing school districts were interested in those vehicles, she said. RESA has met with the four districts’ chief financial officers and operations directors.
“The districts are dividing up things saying, ‘You can have the buses and we’ll take the football helmets,’ that sort of thing,” Stirling said. “There could be additional transportation costs.”
Stirling said the Michigan Department of Education is aware of the new challenges Taylor is facing.
“We will be redoing the budget in September and it will be vastly different,” she said. “They understand we have a huge undertaking that we have to add to the budget.”
For the News-Herald's presentation of this story, which include video, click here. Contact Staff Writer David Komer at 1-734-246-0866 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and @DavidKomer_NH on Twitter.