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So, how big is Flint schools' deficit? Depends who you ask

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint Community Schools says it's got a $20 million deficit ($10 million of which was only recently discovered, according to the district.)

But if you ask Lisa Hagel, Flint Community Schools owes another $8.6 million on top of that.

Hagel is the superintendent of the Genesee Intermediate School District, which is now suing Flint schools over allegedly misspending $8.6 million of countywide tax money.  

The money was supposed to go to the Genesee Area Skill Center for vocational training. Instead, it was blended into the general fund of the Flint Community Schools.

Hagel started meeting with Flint school officials about a year ago to try to figure out a solution.

But she says those meetings stopped earlier this year.

“We’ve tried using the auditors, we’ve met directly with the board,” she says. “We’re just really out of options and we cannot prolong waiting and allowing Flint to go further into deficit without taking some sort of action.”

Flint schools' interim superintendent says he does not dispute that the millage money was blended into the district's general fund for years.

But Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins says the district does dispute the amount of money it owes the county.

Meanwhile, there’s that other $20 million deficit

This lawsuit comes at an already difficult time for the district.

It's got until the end of this month to tell the state how, exactly, it plans to eliminate that deficit.

It's shedding jobs and outsourcing positions left and right. Some 250 pink slips went out to secretaries and janitorial staff; then there are some 180 outsourced substitute teachers, safety advocates, and possibly athletic coaches.

And that $20 million figure doesn’t include the $8.6 million that GISD says the district owes.

Bill DiSessa is a spokesperson with the Michigan Department of Education.

“If Genesee prevails, [it] could increase Flint’s deficit, that’s my understanding so, you know, this is a serious issue, a serious problem for Flint schools.”

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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