October 31, 2014

Joint board meeting sheds light to public on consolidation, annexation

By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

TWINING — Parents, staff and community members interested in consolidation or annexation between the Arenac Eastern School District (AE) and the AuGres-Sims School District (AGS) showed up to a joint board meeting at which both School Boards were present on Jan. 26 at the AE gymnasium.

During the meeting, consolidation and annexation, and the process on how to enact one of the options, were described by Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District (BAISD) Superintendent Mike Dewey.

Consolidation, Dewey said, is the actual combining of both districts to form an entirely new one.

“Everything would be fresh. Everything would be new,” he said, adding that if the districts consolidated, a temporary board of education would be appointed by the BAISD as the first step in the new district. “The new board would hire the superintendent and the superintendent would begin putting his or her staff together.”

As for staff, Dewey said in a consolidated district all staff members currently employed by either AGS or AE could apply for a position, but all would receive equal consideration.

“They (staff) have no seniority in the new district,” Dewey said.

He also described the bonded indebtedness process that would be assumed if the districts consolidated. Dewey says that unless a vote by the community members of each district shows voters are in favor of combining the bonded indebtedness of both districts, than former AGS community members and former AE community members, assuming the districts were consolidated by a majority vote, would continue to pay off debt the same way they do now.

However, he added, a new millage or bonded project after consolidation would be the responsibility of all voters in the newly combined school district.

Annexation, however, offers some differences to consolidation.

Dewey says in this option, a resolution by a school district, he used AE for his example, could be made to annex, or absorb another district - AGS in Dewey’s example. For this to become a reality, he said after the resolution was made, voters in the district being annexed would have to vote to accept the annexation.

Once again, the bond indebtedness would remain separate unless a vote in the annexing district passed to assume the debt of the absorbed district.

The district would also annex more than just the other’s students.

“The property and assets come over to your district,” Dewey said. “Any real property would become the property of the district annexed to.”

In an annexed district, professional staff, according to the State of Michigan School Code, Dewey said, would all be on a level playing field when it comes to seniority.

For his example, Dewey once again used the scenario of AE annexing AGS.

“Their teachers would become part of AE’s contract just as though AuGres’ teachers had always worked at AE,” Dewey said.

But as for support staff - custodians, secretaries, food service, transportation - Dewey says the state’s school code doesn’t outline any specific rules.

“The law doesn’t require that they go to the annexed district,” he said. “It would be up to the district that was annexed to (AE in his example) if they needed more employees.”

An annexed district would also assume the name of the district it was annexed to, while a consolidated district would have a new name all its own.

After Dewey completed his presentation to both boards and the public, AGS Superintendent Gary Marchel shared projected enrollments for each district up until the school year 2013-14, including the past six years as well. He says the numbers in his presentation were formulated by an independent agency who used trends form the past and birth rates of the communities to come to its conclusion, which he says is usually very accurate.

Both districts showed a projected enrollment drop in the year 2013-14 when compared to the current school year, 2008-09, the current year also having a decreased enrollment for each district when compared to last year.

“This was not the result of the economic problems in Michigan. This is because 18 years ago, people decided they were going to stop having kids,” Marchel said. “Numbers are going down all over the state. …. Last year the state of Michigan lost 32,000 students. This year they’re anticipating a loss of another 29,000 students.”

Marchel added that while the state has lost students in the past, even before the current economic crisis, it also attracted new students, but due to the current lack of employment opportunities, the amount of students coming in to Michigan have not made up for the number leaving.

AGS Board member Robert Lutz further expanded on Marchel’s projections.

“We’re going to lose 50 (students) between the two of us (by 2013-14),” he said. “That’s another $350,000 in the next five years. That’s why I want to talk about consolidation and annexation.”

After the comments regarding enrollments, each board adjourned and the public was asked to write questions or comments on a card and drop it in a box for the district they had an interest in. AE Superintendent Rocky Aldrich said each card would be read and each issue taken before the individual board the question or comment was directed to.

Cheryl Andrejewski, who dropped her card in the AE box, said she was “Adamantly against” consolidation of annexation.

“Right now I can’t see the benefits,” she said.

Chad Zeien dropped his card in the AGS box. He said his question had to do with how long it would take to pull of either consolidation or annexation.

“What would be the timetable that both processes would take?” Zeien said his card read, adding he is not against the idea of either consolidation or annexation. “I think you have to be open minded and look at the possibilities.”

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