How Pontiac school district erased millions in debt

District released from consent agreement with state

By Jermont Terry - Reporter, Kayla Clarke

PONTIAC, Mich. - The Pontiac School District was released from its consent agreement with the state as of Oct. 12.

READPontiac School District released from agreement, now operates without state financial oversight

The district now manages all operations and finances without state oversight. The school district regularly adopted balanced budgets, including recently for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The deficit has been reduced from $52 million in 2013 to $6.6 million.

Downtown Pontiac is seeing fewer vacant storefronts and school district leaders are expecting Pontiac to continue moving in a positive direction.

When Kelley Williams stepped into the role of superintendent for Pontiac Schools, the district faced a $52 million deficit.

"We were brutally honest there was mismanagement of money. There were bad decisions made in the past," Williams said.

Enrollment in the school district declined and nothing was done to counter the revenue loss. The district finances were so upside down it needed emergency assistance. But unlike Detroit public schools, Pontiac schools didn't go into emergency management -- giving up total control.

Instead the district opted for a consent agreement under which the state assisted with strict guidelines, yet the school board maintained local control.

"We probably would have lost our high school with different approaches I've seen across Michigan," Williams said.

Community partnerships were formed, and tough decisions were made.

The district sold seven school buildings for $2.5 million. A sinking fund millage passed, raising nearly $2.8 million.

Williams believes the district would not be released from the consent agreement without the hard work of the staff.

"Without the concessions of the district employees," Williams said. "We would not be able to say our deficit is now reduced to $6.6 million."

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