The Board of Education needs more time to consider the ramifications of a request to help fund the hiring of a full-time director for the Foundation for Saline Area Schools.
At , representatives of the foundation requested that the district invest approximately $150,000 over three years, allow the foundation to use space for an office at Liberty School, and help administer payroll.
Over the years, the foundation has donated more than $400,000 to Saline Area Schools programs, ranging from $200 grants for after school programs to $65,000 to help the district buy the materials it needed for new science, technology, engineering and math curriculum at the middle school in 2010.
With a structural deficit and the uncertainty of state funding for public schools, the foundation asserts that it can play a more important role in the district.
“We’re looking to go pro with an experienced executive director who works day-to-day with a meaningful budget,” said Reid Paxton, a trustee on the foundation’s board of directors. “Why go pro? Because of the money. Ann Arbor raised $600,000 last year. In Dearborn, donations are up 30 percent. East Grand Rapids has doubled its endowment to $2 million. More than 22 districts across the state have paid staff working for their foundation.”
The foundation pledged to contribute $50,000 to invest in an executive director. The foundation had hoped the board might approve the concept by the end of January. It’s unlikely the board will have a decision by then.
Superintendent Scot Graden said the board is still looking into the legal issues surrounding the use of general fund revenue for a 501c3 nonprofit.
Trustee David Zimmer said he had difficult with the idea.
“We have a structural deficit. We’ve cut teaching and administrative positions. We will incur more expenses with all-day kindergarten. It’s a struggle for me to approve this while we have 40 kids in a high school classroom,” Zimmer said. “I think we need to get our priorities set and then when we can look at this again if it becomes the most important priority.”
Trustee Craig Hoeft said he thought the matter deserved further study.
“I think we should continue to look at this. This is an organization that brings $70,000 a year to the table that wasn’t coming in,” Hoeft said.
Trustee Dave Holden said he supported the idea of growing the foundation. But he needed a better understanding of the relationship between the district and the foundation.
“The devil is in the details. What kind of liability is involved? There are issues we need to sort through to get it right,” he said.
School Board President Lisa Slawson said the board would be unable to meet the foundation’s request to make a decision by the end of the month.
“We’re not tabling this. But I think this came up too quick for us to make an appropriate decision,” Slawson said.
The foundation raised approximately $80,000 last year. Paxton said in December that the foundation believed it could increase that total to $200,000 annually within three years.
With a full-time executive director, Paxton said, the foundation could spend more time chasing lucrative grants from corporations and philanthropic organizations.
“We’d have somebody working seven days a week to get more individual donations, planned giving and to tap an alumni base that we really haven’t reached out to at all,” Paxton said. “The volunteers who work for the foundation today really can’t do much more than they are already doing.”