DALLAS -- Detroit Public Schools Community District superintendent announced on Tuesday plans to cut more than 60 positions in a move to save the district more than $5 million.
The announcement comes as projection by the newly established school district show it could end the fiscal year in a surplus, one year after their bailout.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced the cuts Tuesday. They include instructional specialists and certified teachers who assist in curriculum development and implementation, and dozens of administrative roles. The resulting $5 million savings will be redirected to schools to improve technology access programming and teacher and principal professional development, according to a news release from the district. Vitti was named superintendent of the new school district in April.
"We have a projected $75 million fund balance as of July 1," said Vitti. "To be clear, the staff reductions was not a budgetary necessity but an organizational strategy to improve coordination between schools and the district and to be fully staffed by the fall."
Detroit Public Schools Community District was created as part of the $617 million legislative package that restructured the old Detroit Public Schools last June.
The surplus is attributed to staffing vacancies and a new enhancement millage passed by voters last November. That millage is levied at the intermediate school district level, and in Wayne County that’s countywide. “They didn’t budget for that at the beginning of the year, it happened, and they benefited from it as did every other school district,” said Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.
In a report released in May, the CRC warned that the district's long term financial success will depend on its ability to stabilize student enrollment and student achievement to stop the loss of students to nearby, better performing school districts. The district must also address the cost of maintaining half-empty buildings. According to the CRC report, nearly 50% of the classrooms in 2015-2016 were empty. One-quarter of the high schools — seven schools — were 75% empty.
"With so many empty seats, valuable resources are being siphoned away from classroom instruction, support services, and other academic programs," the CRC wrote. "This inefficiency threatens the district’s long-term financial health. School closures and consolidations must remain an option. The challenge will be to balance the demands for improved efficiency with access to a nearby school for Detroit residents."
The old school district, which had been under state emergency management oversight for the past seven years, risked defaulting on debt payments. Without legislative action, the district was headed toward bankruptcy with the state likely on the hook for much of the district's bonded debt.
Under the rescue plan, the state paid off $467 million of accumulated DPS operating debt. The new, debt-free school system was established with an additional $150 million provided to cover transitional operating costs.