Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 12, 2013

TBAISD may share part of cash stash with local districts

TRAVERSE CITY — Big fund balances -- tens of millions of dollars worth -- in Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District coffers prompted some area school officials to ask why cash-strapped local districts aren’t receiving more money from the ISD.

Members of the Traverse City Area Public Schools' Board of Education are expected to vote Monday on whether to approve the TBAISD general education fund budget. Board of education members from 15 other local public districts will cast similar votes this month.

Some members of local district boards see a vote against the general education budget as a way to publicly oppose TBAISD's accumulation of nearly $35 million in a handful of operating and capital project funds at a time when many local district struggle with annual financial shortfalls.

"As of today, I am inclined to vote no," TCAPS Board of Education President Kelly Hall said Friday.

But TBAISD's swelling fund balances might not be so large for long. A committee of local superintendents and TBAISD officials is at work on a formula to distribute some cash reserves to local districts over a five-year period.

The ISD-led committee came together in recent weeks amid a Record-Eagle review of the ISD's fund balance, as well as local district officials' growing concerns about the cash reserves, TBAISD Superintendent Mike Hill said.

Hill said TBAISD's Board of Education for years discussed its large fund balances and the possibility of increasing services and funding to local districts.

"It's perhaps long overdue and it's a healthy discussion. It's a good discussion," Hill said. "We're very glad we're having it. This is for the benefit of the region and the benefit of the students in the region."

TBAISD serves 36 public, charter and non-public schools in the Grand Traverse region with a wide range of services, including career technical training, special education programming, adult education classes, and business and administrative services.

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