Michigan lawmakers approve $114M to wipe school debt


(The Center Square) – Michigan lawmakers approved a spending bill that aims to pay off $114 million of school debt in five districts.

House Bill 4292 is a supplemental bill aiming to pay $42 million of debt for Ypsilanti Community Schools, $31 million for Muskegon Heights School District, $18 million for Pontiac City School District, $12 million for the former Inkster School District and $10 million for Benton Harbor Area Schools.

In 2013, the Ypsilanti Public School District merged with the Willow Run School District to create YCS. The new district currently pays about $2 million a year to service old debt from the Willow Run School District.

Sen. Jeff Irwin,D-Ann Arbor welcomed the funding.

“For a decade, this old debt has been soaking up resources that should be going to support YCS students and staff,” Irwin said in a statement. “It has been a barrier to offering competitive salaries to attract and retain staff, and it has limited the district’s ability to create enhanced learning opportunities for students. Now YCS leadership will be able to redirect their resources to invest where they should have been all along: in student success.”

The funds were appropriated as part of School Aid supplemental funding bill that provides debt relief to local school districts affected by financial emergencies, dissolution or consolidation.

Sen. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, voted for a supplemental budget that includes over $55 million in funding for Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College and the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

“Having a highly educated and skilled workforce is vital to attracting new jobs and investment to our state — and to the future of West Michigan,” Huizenga said in a statement. “These projects are examples of the long-term investments we should be making, and they will help GVSU and GRCC improve and expand their facilities to meet the educational needs of their students for years to come.”

It includes $30 million toward GVSU’s $140 million Blue Dot Lab project, which would renovate a 160,000-square-feet facility constructed in 1988 and build a new 15,000-square-foot addition. The project would address fire suppression and alarm systems, replace mechanical and control systems, improve the roof and building envelope, and replace electrical and lighting systems that would create technology-centered learning spaces for multiple disciplines.

GRCC would receive $16.8 million toward a $33.6 million project to renovate 61,268 square feet of the Learning Resource Center, originally constructed in 1972, and add 16,100 square feet. The renovation would improve electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and HVAC systems, address ADA accessibility, and improve energy efficiency. The increased capacity of the structure would allow additional student services to be relocated to the building.

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans would receive $8.5 million to help with continuing costs and revenue impacts related to the transition of members to the new facility, such as lower-than-anticipated restricted and federal revenue and higher-than-anticipated costs for nursing services.

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