Flint Community Schools Superintendent wants to consolidate buildings to diminish debt

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FLINT (WJRT) (11/7/2019) - Flint Community Schools has been struggling financially for some time.

If nothing is done this year to help stop the train, Superintendent Derrick Lopez said that they'll be $12-million in the hole by the end of the year.

The School Board held an emergency meeting Thursday to talk Deficit Elimination Plans, as they looked over the budget.

The auditing team from Plante and Moran presented their findings, before plans were proposed by a separate firm. And then, Lopez made his own suggestions.

"If we literally reduce our footprint and make geographic equity in the district work for our kids, we can reduce our cost to the tune of about $4.8-million dollars a year," he said.

Lopez wants to close 4 more Flint Community Schools, including Eisenhower, Scott, and Pierce. Northwestern would become a 'district facilities hub.'

Because Lopez wants to start the closures in December, moving teachers and students would start in January 2020.

So that means a shift for many of the district's 3700 students.

Here's the breakdown:
- Holmes would move into Brownell
- Flint Jr. High currently in Northwestern would move to the Holmes building
- ALA at Scott would move to Southwestern.

Then, by June and July 2020, Eisenhower and Pierce would be moved.
The students would spread out across 5 other schools.

Overall, getting to that savings of nearly $5-million.

"The costs are cut with respect to utilities first because if we're not using the space. Custodian, we have to clean those buildings every night. So, there's a cost per square foot of cleaning buildings every evening, transportation routes, you would consolidate routes," Lopez explained.

He said that'll start to chip away at the $5-million dollar debt that's been on the books the past 5 years. Debt that he said accumulated after the District borrowed a $20-million loan in 2014.

"At some point, the deficit and the debt had to meet again, if you don't make structural changes," Lopez said. "And so now, it's incumbent upon our team to really figure out what structural changes need to be made - thus the plan."

Options would be asking voters to renew the current millage. From there, the district will decide how to distribute the dollars.

"The plans that were presented tonight, actually made sense," United Teachers of Flitn President, Karen Christian said. "And, it looks like if we choose an aggressive route, we'll be able to get out of complete debt within somewhere between 7 and 16 years, depending on which plan they choose to take."

Christian is grateful no teachers will lose their jobs. She added that she hopes all of the moving waits until next summer, but that's up to the Board.

They'll meet again next week.

Ultimately, the driving force of the district's money troubles is a trend of falling enrollment.

Since 2004, the student body has shrunk by nearly 75-percent.

We asked the superintendent how the District can turn around that trend.

His answer was simple -- improve education throughout the District.

"Therefore, parents will then have the grocery store conversation, the beauty salon conversation. the haircut conversation. 'Hey you need to send your kid over to Freeman because this is what they're getting here. You should send your kid to Doyle Ryder.' When we get that buzz as opposed to 'Man what's going on in the Flint Community Schools,' then we'll have a product that we can then market on billboards, knock on doors and say 'Hey come and talk to us because we're educating children at a high level,'" Lopez said.



 
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