After months of debate and analysis, the Dexter Community School Board passed a resolution at its March 23rd meeting stating it was not going to annex neighboring Whitmore Lake Public Schools. The board declared that the “risks outweighed the potential benefits.”
A local ad hoc committee was formed to look into the pros and cons of an annexation with Whitmore Lake. In February, school board member and ad hoc committee member Daryl Kipke presented the findings of phase one, which identified the key risks and benefits to annexing the neighboring school district. The most prominent risk, according to several board members, had to do with finances.
“In order for annexation to be wildly successful and mitigate all these risks, it needs to be appropriately resourced,” Kipke said in February. “We can’t annex on the cheap.”
According to the findings, the cost of additional programs and staffing needed for annexation exceeded the amount gained through the process.
While the annexation discussion ended, another one was raised by several people in the community, including Jennifer Kangas, a parent of three children in the district and the person behind Friends of the Dexter Community Schools.
At the end of the 2015 school year, Dexter had about $6 million in the bank, or nearly 15 percent of its operating budget. And that’s roughly where a school district wants to be in case of emergencies.
“Our school board has been fiscally responsible with the management of the school budget,” Kangas said. “Many parents didn’t understand until the annexation discussion came up that Dexter has had cuts in classroom funding almost every year for the past 12 years. The state sends the district money every year but then we have to send the state money to pay for mandated costs. One year the state reduced our funding by about $400 per child in the middle of the school year.”
Kangas said the teachers had taken cuts to absorb the losses and the district consolidated busses in order to not cut or reduce programs offered in the schools.
“We are now at a point where additional cuts have to come from somewhere,” Kangas said. “The number of kids per class has slowly increased. And every district in the state is facing these challenges, including Dexter.”
Through the annexation process and the awareness raised in the community regarding the financial challenges facing the district some parents offered to write checks to help maintain Dexter’s excellent schools. So Kangas and a group of parents decided to form Excellence 4 Dexter Students (E4DS), which will set its sights on raising money for programs and needs within the Dexter school district.
“We will be starting a fundraising campaign to raise money for the district to use for operating funds,” Kangas said. Sort of a booster club for the school district. “There are other groups in the district that do fundraising events and we want to work with them and together help raise funds for areas of need,” she said. “We are still working out details on Page 2 of 2how the money will be used. The idea is that the district will let us know where the shortfalls are and we raise money and the district can use it where they see fit.”
Kangas said that E4DS is the only group whose mission involves funding normal operating expenses associated with regular programming in our schools whereas the Educational Foundation of Dexter (EFD) provides financial support for teacher grants for innovative and creative educational projects that cannot be funded through the school district.
The group began forming and meeting in April. Last week the group filed an application for 501(c)(3) status, which requires the group to be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes and none of its earnings can be used for any private shareholder or individual.
“The group is currently working on a fundraising plan. Look for more details in September.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the E4DS Facebook page.
This story is part of a two-part series that began publish with the first installment this past Wednesday at the following link here.
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