LANSING?The state Legislature has approved measures that would protect taxpayers and help prevent future financial judgments against school districts.
Senate Bills 442 and 443, sponsored by Sen. Jim Marleau, would require schools to notify state and local officials when they have defaulted on a contract.
The legislation passed Thursday with significant bipartisan support in both chambers. Thirty-three of the 38 senators and 77 of the 110 representatives voted yes.
Marleau’s bills were prompted by a $7.8 million court judgment against the Pontiac School District earlier this year for the district’s missed payments to Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA), the organization that administers the district’s health and related employee benefit plans.
Responsibility for paying the judgment is being passed on to taxpayers in the district.
“Years ago, we passed Proposal A to protect taxpayers from paying for school operating costs, but residents in the Pontiac School District are responsible for nearly $8 million in such costs because of this court judgment,” said Marleau, R-Lake Orion. “My bills do what Proposal A didn’t do in this case: protect taxpayers by creating a system where we know when schools aren’t paying their bills.”
Marleau said it is too late for his measures to address the situation with Pontiac Schools. Taxpayers in the cities of Pontiac and Auburn Hills, as well as those in Orion Township, Bloomfield Township, West Bloomfield and Sylvan Lake have seen a significant increase in their tax bills.
“It’s sad that the $8 million levied against taxpayers will pay off the MESSA credit, not to fund our children’s education,” Marleau said. “MESSA spent 18 months providing a benefit our community could not afford, confident that taxpayers would foot the bill.”
SBs 442 and 443 have been sent to Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign them into law.