Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

May 27, 2013

More local officials eye banked TBAISD cash

TRAVERSE CITY — More than a dozen local school boards in the Grand Traverse region gave figurative nods of approval to a Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District budget, but local board members are still waiting to see if the ISD will release some of its tens of millions of dollars in cash reserves.

The boards of education from Traverse City Area Public Schools and Leland Public School broke from the pack this month when they rejected the TBAISD’s $8.9-million general education budget proposal in displays of public opposition to the accumulation of roughly $35 million in several operation and capital project funds.

Other local districts approved the TBAISD proposal in unanimous or near-unanimous votes.

The Northport Public School Board voted 5-1 in favor of the TBAISD budget proposal, but Northport school board President Thomas Wetherbee said his board harbors concerns about TBAISD’s swelling cash stash.

”The reason for the opposition is we are a donor district here,” Wetherbee said. “We send a lot more to the ISD than we receive in services.”

Nancy Peterson, the Northport board member who cast the dissenting vote, did not return a call for comment.

The intermediate district operates with a $60 million annual budget.

Roughly $8 million of the overall budget is tied to vocational education and funds TBAISD’s Career-Tech Center. The majority of TBAISD’s yearly budget — about $42 million — is tied to a special education fund.

Large portions of each of the three funding pools are derived from local tax millages. Cash reserves in the three pools and several capital project funds total roughly $35 million.

Whetherbee said the ISD needs to keep a healthy amount of cash on hand. But TBAISD is building up cash reserves in part because it collects more from Northport through local taxes than it provides to the town’s school district in services.

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