It’s no secret that school districts across Michigan have been using all of their creative forces on a regular basis to balance their budgets. As a result of relatively flat funding increases, enrollment shifts, and the recognition that the landscape may not change in the near term, districts have been doing an outstanding job of working collaboratively with one another to find ways to bring high quality programming to students year in and year out.
Programs such as the implementation of countywide computer systems in Oakland County allow for the sharing of services and staff when needed and reduce the need for on-site technology staff at each location. Many other intermediate school districts throughout the state also offer this service to their local districts. Districts are talking to one another more than ever about providing services – such as transportation, food service, business office administration, psychology staff, technology directors, and the list goes on and on — on behalf of a few districts, rather than each one operating independently.
Boards of education should ask the questions, “Can we provide this service for others?” and “Can others provide this service for us?” in such a way that may allow for dollars to be re-allocated to other initiatives in the district. Asking the questions and being open to engaging in the conversation can lead to helpful solutions for the community.
Clearly, sharing services is a large balancing act, with many vested parties, but collaboration may allow districts to focus their energies on those things they do best (and most efficiently) and help out a neighboring district that may be willing to use that service.
Recognizing that each district has different strengths they bring to the table and keeping the lines of communication open has led to some very creative solutions to managing district operations – and each year we find more creativity in the conversation as districts strive to keep the maximum amount of dollars in the classroom.
We applaud boards of education, school administrators, and community members on their willingness to engage in discussion, do the appropriate analysis, and determine: “How can we do the most for the students with the resources at our disposal?” Plante Moran has been a part of many of these conversations and would be happy to discuss how to work through this process in your community.