Consolidation funding a possibility, not guarantee
Proposed budgets by Gov. Rick Snyder may allow for consolidated schools to receive money if application deadlines are met, grant proposals are accepted and there is still money available.
Bruce Mayle, superintendent of the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District, held a meeting Tuesday to inform the public on consolidation. The meeting was attended by many residents interested in the proposed consolidation of Bessemer Area School District and Wakefield-Marenisco School District.
Signed petitions were handed in to the Gogebic County clerk's office Tuesday to put the issue to a public vote in August. Signatures must be verified by the county clerk before officially being put on the ballot.
Mayle said the last consolidated school to receive money, about $6 million, was Ypsilanti Community Schools, which officially merged Ypsilanti School District with Willow Run School District in July 2013. The merger was one of the biggest consolidations in state history.
Snyder has proposed $5 million in his budget for the 2015 fiscal year, beginning October, 1 2014, to be set aside for consolidation, but no budgets have been approved yet. The state's House of Representatives and Senate will each have their own budgets and all three will be considered.
Mayle said every grant has its own specifications that need to be met. But even if a school goes through the application process, it might not see any money.
"There's no guarantee for any particular district to get anything," Mayle said. "They could say 'we already gave it to another district.'"
Money budgeted by legislators for consolidation is sent to the Department of Education, and schools can then apply through a grant proposal process for a portion.
Last year, the government allocated $5 million in grants available for consolidation, but districts had to apply for it by October 2013. Proponents of the Bessemer-W-M consolidation did not make the deadline to apply.
The GOISD applied for and received $8,700 in grant money to cover any possible elections, legal fees and meeting fees in preparation of the consolidation issue. If the consolidation vote for the two districts were to fail, the districts would have had to pay for the associated costs of meetings and legal fees themselves.
"We've had to reserve $3,500 of that award, if consolidation were to occur, to be used for professional development of students and staff during that transitional period," Mayle said.
Mayle said the grant money was requested to prepare for the costs associated with the issue, and not in support of consolidation.