Education
1:22 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

The 15 Michigan schools running the biggest deficits

Bake sales, magazine subscriptions and car washes ... it seems school systems are perennially low on money.

But with one Michigan school system closing its doors before the school year ends, others consolidating to save money, and still another giving up on its high school; Michigan schools seem to be in an especially bad spot.

Blame gets spread around.

It's the economy - mismanagement - declining enrollment - excessive funding cuts - high retiree costs - or cumbersome union contracts.

Pick whatever reason you like best, it doesn't change the fact that many Michigan schools are in trouble.

The State's Deputy Superintendent of Schools wrote this in a recent memo to local school officials:

"... we have seen a marked increase in the number of districts that have experienced a deficit fund balance. The magnitude of some of these districts seems almost insurmountable."

Let's give it a little perspective.

Over the last decade, here are the number of schools that ran a deficit in a given school year.

Chart by Lucy Perkins, and Mark Brush.
Credit Lucy Perkins, Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan had 742 school districts in 2002-2003. Today, the state has 805 districts.

Of the 805 districts today, as the chart shows, 49 are running deficits.

Here are the fifteen schools in Michigan with the biggest projected budget deficits as a percentage of their expected overall revenue. It should be noted that these numbers could change as the school year advances.

  1. School District of the City of Inkster - $15.9 million projected deficit - 60.77% of projected revenue
  2. Highland Park City Schools - $5.3 million projected deficit - 53.60% of projected revenue
  3. Benton Harbor Area Schools - $12.8 million projected deficit - 43.11% of projected revenue
  4. Westwood Community School District - $6.1 million projected deficit - 24.66% of projected revenue
  5. Ypsilanti Public Schools - $9.2 million projected deficit - 24.14% of projected revenue
  6. East Detroit Public Schools - $6.0 million projected deficit - 16.32% of projected revenue
  7. Willow Run Community Schools - $2.9 million projected deficit - 15.34% of projected revenue
  8. Mt. Clemens Community Schools - $2.9 million projected deficit - 15.15% of projected revenue
  9. Bridgeport Spaulding Community School District - $2 million projected deficit - 14.93% of projected revenue
  10. Taylor School District - $9.3 million projected deficit - 14.84% of projected revenue
  11. Brighton Area Schools - $8.6 million projected deficit - 14.33% of projected revenue
  12. HEART Academy - $224,471 projected deficit - 13.35% of projected revenue
  13. Perry Public Schools - $1.5 million projected deficit - 13.12% of projected revenue
  14. Redford Union Schools - $3.3 million projected deficit - 12.20% of projected revenue
  15. Clintondale Community Schools - $3.7 million projected deficit - 12.15 % of projected revenue

To see all 49 school districts, check out this Michigan Department of Education report.

*Data for the Pontiac School District and Flint Community Schools are not available in the report.

MDE's Jan Ellis points out that these are districts that are running deficits. There are many other districts in Michigan that are not running deficits, but are cutting their way out of trouble.