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Governor Confirms Muskegon Heights Schools Financial Emergency

Contact: Caleb Buhs, (517) 335-2167

April 19, 2012

Longtime Executive and University Professor Appointed Emergency Manager

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley today informed the Muskegon Heights School District that Governor Rick Snyder has confirmed his determination that a financial emergency exists in the district and has appointed Donald Weatherspoon, Ph.D., as emergency manager, pursuant to Public Act 4 of 2011, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act. The appointment is effective Monday, April 23, 2012. Dr. Weatherspoon has spent the past 27 years working in the education community, both as a professor at Michigan State University and as a government executive, and currently serves on the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

“The experience Don Weatherspoon has acquired over his distinguished career makes him well-suited to address the financial emergency facing Muskegon Heights schools,” Governor Snyder said. “Dr. Weatherspoon will work cooperatively with district and intermediate school district staff to ensure that students in the Muskegon Heights School District get the quality education they deserve.”

The Governor’s determination that a financial emergency exists in the district was based on an independent, eight-member financial review team report which found the following:

  • The School District’s cumulative general fund deficit increased by 102 percent, from $4,195,864 as of June 30, 2010 to $8,472,543 as of June 30, 2011. The one-year increase resulted from expenditures and transfers out of the general fund exceeding revenues by $4.2 million.
  • Since at least the 2006 fiscal year, the School District has had a negative year-end fund balance in its general fund. Based upon Michigan Department of Education data, during this period, the negative year-end general fund balance has ranged from $900,378 for in 2006 to a projected $9.4 million for the current fiscal year which ends June 30, 2012.
  • The School District’s pupil enrollment has decreased by more than 34 percent since 2006, from 2,142 pupils to 1,408 pupils in the current year.
  • Due to the terms of a $7.9 million State aid note for the School District, the Department of Treasury was required to intercept a 12% of the District’s State aid payments beginning in February 2012 to ensure the timely repayment by the School District of that State aid note. These partial intercepts are in addition to a 100 percent intercept of the School District’s August 2012 State aid payment, required by the loan terms. Even after the intercepts, the School District still will owe approximately $6.3 million on its State aid note which is due in August.

Last December, the Muskegon Heights Board of Education advised the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) of the district’s “inability to realistically make the financial cuts necessary to make any further progress on a deficit reduction plan,” and requested that an emergency manager be installed in the district.

As emergency manager, Dr. Weatherspoon will develop a written financial and operating plan within 45 days of his appointment. Weatherspoon will also maintain ongoing communications with school district officials, parents of Muskegon Heights students, members of the community, and the media.

Don Weatherspoon Biography
Donald B. Weatherspoon, Ph.D. was appointed as an Administrative Commissioner for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission on May 7, 2007. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Weatherspoon served as the Special Assistant to the Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. He has also served as Chief Deputy Director of the Family Independence Agency, Assistant Superintendent for the Michigan Department of Education, Director of the Division of Budget Review for the Maryland General Assembly, Deputy Director for Administration in the Department of Natural Resources, as well as a Research Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. Additionally, he served as an Adjunct Associate Professor for the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University for 21 years. Dr. Weatherspoon's extensive experience in several Michigan governmental agencies includes oversight of special initiatives, oversight of regulatory functions, oversight of Administrative Law, supervision of strategic planning development, budget and planning, and supervisory responsibility for various other state agency functions. Dr. Weatherspoon holds a bachelor's degree in Police Administration from Michigan State University, a master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Eastern Michigan University and a Ph.D. in General Education Administration from the University of Michigan.

For more information about PA 4, visit the Local Government Fiscal Health page on the Department of Treasury’s Web site at www.michigan.gov/treasury.

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