Mich. Gov Veto Slashes School Aid
Chris Christoff and Lori Higgins | Detroit Free Press via YellowBrix
October 20, 2009
LANSING — Gov. Jennifer Granholm flexed her veto muscle Monday, wiping out $54 million from a public school budget and putting lawmakers on the spot to come up with more cash for schools or watch deep cuts at 39 select districts, including 26 in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties.
That’s certain to stoke debate over higher taxes to pay for schools.
Hardest hit by Granholm’s veto would be the Livonia and Dearborn school districts, each losing $4.9 million in state aid — on top of the $165-per-pupil reduction affecting all Michigan districts approved by the Legislature earlier this month.
Oakland County had the most affected districts with 12. Ten would be hit in Wayne County and four in Macomb County.
The districts, which would lose a combined $51.5 million, are among the state’s highest spending and have been allowed to keep those levels under a state formula that included the vetoed funds.
By signing the $12.9-billion school aid bill, Granholm allowed the state to make scheduled payments to school districts today.
The vetoes won’t bully the Republican-controlled Senate into raising taxes, said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.
“Those lines the governor vetoed will simply be unfunded,” Marsden said.
Veto leaves 39 districts scrambling
Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s veto pen Monday put 39 school districts in the raging cross fire of a Lansing war over deficits, taxes and state priorities.
The districts would lose a combined $51.5 million, on top of the expected cut of $165-per-pupil in state aid approved by the Legislature for all Michigan schools.
Granholm called for lawmakers to approve more money for schools, as she signed the rest of a $12.9-billion school aid budget.
‘We feel totally abandoned’
While it put her eyeball to eyeball with Senate Republicans, who pledge no tax increases, it left school districts reeling.
“We’re shocked,” said Tim McAvoy, spokesman for the Troy School District, which stands to lose nearly $3 million. “We feel totally abandoned. We had no idea this was coming.”
McAvoy said the district already cut $7 million from its budget this fiscal year. The school board must make up for the $3 million Granholm vetoed, as well as another $2 million the district will lose in per-pupil funding.
“It puts us in an almost impossible position,” McAvoy said.
Trenton Public Schools will lose $755,250. “It’s going to be devastating,” said Superintendent John Save, who heard the news of Granholm’s veto on his way to a school board workshop.
“We had no inkling this was coming down. But you can bet we’ll be talking about this in a couple of seconds.”
A complex formula
The 39 school districts are among the state’s highest spending, with large property tax bases that provide them with more money than others. A complex state formula lets them keep those funding levels from year to year. They also get the same increases in state funding — or decreases — that other districts get.
Granholm also vetoed six other line items in the school funding budget totaling about $2.5 million.
Even with her veto, Granholm warned the school aid budget could be another $200 million in the red by the end of the year as tax revenues continue to fall.
The school aid bill was the last budget bill lawmakers approved in the past few weeks, after they passed an interim budget through October. Democrats have pressed for tax and fee increases to prevent an even bigger cut to schools, while Republicans have demanded a cut in the state business tax as part of any tax deal.