Stories indexed with the term ‘state funding’

AirRide OK’d, State Funding Reviewed

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (March 20, 2014): Board chair Charles Griffith opened the meeting by noting that the agenda was a lot lighter than last month, when the board had passed 10 separate resolutions – including a vote to put a transit millage proposal on the May 6 ballot.

Looking north on Fifth Avenue at the AirRide stop, just south of the newly opened Blake Transit Center.

Looking north on Fifth Avenue at the AirRide stop, just south of the newly opened Blake Transit Center. (Photos by the writer.)

The only voting item handled by the board at its March 20 meeting was the extension of a contract with Michigan Flyer to provide service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport. The board authorized the first of three one-year extensions on the initial two-year contract for the service, called AirRide.

For the third year of the agreement, the not-to-exceed amount is $170,000. That compares with the first year of the contract that was not to exceed $700,000. The drop in the cost to the AAATA stems from a revenue-sharing agreement based on fare revenues – and ridership has exceeded projections.

The board also received an update on statewide transit issues from Clark Harder, executive director of the Michigan Public Transit Association, and Dusty Fancher, a lobbyist with Midwest Strategy Group. A main theme from their presentation was the need to focus on overall funding increases, as opposed to trying to fine-tune the part of the funding formula that divides public transportation funding among the 78 transit agencies in Michigan.

Harder also described an initiative to provide a non-emergency medical transportation brokerage that would tap public transportation resources. A demonstration program, to be provided through the newly formed Michigan Transportation Connection (MTC), could be up and running by Oct. 1, 2015, Harder reported.

Another highlight of that presentation included the idea that the abysmal road conditions – which have resulted from the long and harsh winter – could be a rallying point for more transportation funding. To the extent that additional money for transportation is funneled through the general transportation funding formula, that would lead to an increase in public transportation funding, along with funding for road infrastructure.

The harsh winter and the challenge of clearing snow at the 1,200 bus stops was also a part of another basic theme of the board’s discussion – accessibility of the bus service to those in the disability community. Carolyn Grawi of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living addressed the board to stress the importance of making sure all the bus stops are accessible. She also reiterated the CIL’s support for the upcoming May 6 millage vote.

Other highlights from the meeting included a round of applause for AAATA maintenance manager Terry Black, who managed the Blake Transit Center construction project. The driveways still need concrete to be poured before the project is completed, but the building itself is now open to the public. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Trial Court Budget Items Approved

At their Sept. 4, 2013 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners acted on three budget items related to the Washtenaw Trial Court – for a new case management software system, and for state funding of the court’s juvenile division.

The board gave final approval to the selection of a new record-keeping software system for the Washtenaw County Trial Court that’s estimated to cost $2.3 million. The Tyler Odyssey Case Records Management System will replace an outdated software system that hasn’t been supported by the previous vendor since 2005, when the vendor went out of business.

The original resolution, put forward at the board’s Aug. 7, 2013 meeting, had identified the following funding sources for this project: (1) a $551,998 refund from the state … [Full Story]

County Programs Get Grant Funding

Three items related to grants and programs administered by the county’s office of community & economic development (OCED) were given final approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at their Feb. 20, 2013 meeting.

The items are: (1) the Michigan Works! system plan for 2013 [.pdf of 2013 MWSP]; (2) $20,000 in federal funding (Community Services Block Grant discretionary funds) to conduct a needs assessment of the New West Willow Neighborhood Association, supplemented with $5,000 in county matching funds; and (3) $20,000 in federal funding (Community Services Block Grant discretionary funds) for tax preparation services to low-income customers, in partnership with Avalon Housing, Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, Housing Bureau for Seniors and Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan.

These items … [Full Story]

UM Makes Case for State Funding

At the Dec. 13, 2012 meeting of the University of Michigan board of regents, provost Phil Hanlon briefed regents on the university’s annual letter to the state budget director, outlining the fiscal 2014 budget needs of the Ann Arbor campus. [link to .pdf of budget development letter] The 10-page letter, officially from UM president Mary Sue Coleman, makes the case that UM needs state support, and provides details of UM’s cost containment efforts, affordability, and impact on the regional economy.

The university also responds to the state’s request for suggestions for “formula funding” – a mechanism to standardize appropriations for higher education. The letter argues that this formula approach to funding for higher education, which has resulted in one-time allocations, … [Full Story]

AATA Approves Routine MDOT Processes

As it typically does each year, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has authorized its chief executive officer to sign and execute contracts with the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) without seeking a separate board resolution – as long as the contracts are less than $1 million. The board gave the blanket authorization at its Sept. 27, 2012 meeting.

According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, there are 10-15 separate agreements between MDOT and AATA. A staff analysis of the resolution allows that there’s a risk to the practice – that the board might not be aware of the contracts that the CEO is executing. That risk is meant to be mitigated by a new practice of reporting all … [Full Story]

AATA Projected FY 2013 Budget Takes Dip

While the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s draft budget had shown a small surplus for the upcoming 2013 fiscal year, the budget that the AATA board will be asked to approve at its upcoming Sept. 27 meeting will now show a $300,000 deficit.

The draft AATA budget provided on Sept. 12 to the city council as a communication item for its Sept. 17 meeting showed a surplus of $22,692 over the budgeted expenses of $33,344,048. However, on Sept. 14 the AATA was notified by the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) that a new interpretation of the state’s operating assistance formula would reduce AATA’s assistance by $803,500. The AATA financial staff responded by reducing expenses, but left about $300,000 to be covered by the fund … [Full Story]

County Board OKs State Reimbursements

Several items related to state reimbursements for Washtenaw County units were given initial approval by county commissioners on Sept. 19, 2012. The timing reflects the state’s fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. In contrast, the county works on a calendar-year budget cycle; but many of its units receive significant state funding.

The Washtenaw County Trial Court juvenile division anticipates $4,329,042 in reimbursements from the state child care fund budget. Programs supported by these revenues include family foster care, institutional care and in-home care, according to a staff memo. The trial court’s Friend of the Court program is also seeking reimbursements for “services to residents who are seeking to establish paternity and/or child support orders.” Over a three-year period through Sept. 30, … [Full Story]

UM Regents Criticize “Formula Funding”

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Nov. 17, 2011): A meeting that began 20 minutes late included two items that spurred discussion among regents: The possible use of a formula to allocate state funding for higher education, and the need for a more comprehensive housing strategy on the Ann Arbor campus.

Block M cookies

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman passed around a tray of Block M cookies before the Nov. 17 board meeting. Later, regent Martin Taylor objected to a potential “cookie cutter” approach to appropriating money for higher education, via formula funding. It was fairly clear that he wasn’t referring to these cookies. (Photos by the writer.)

This year, as part of the standard budget appropriations process, the state also has asked universities to provide suggestions for how to implement “formula funding” – a mechanism that’s being considered as a way to standardize appropriations for higher education. Martin Taylor and other regents expressed concerns over the approach, and asked for revisions to a letter being sent from the university to the state budget director that would explicitly state UM’s opposition to this kind of funding model.

Also on the agenda were two requests related to renovations at East Quad on central campus and Baits II on north campus. The topic prompted regent Andrea Fischer Newman to call for a broader strategy for student housing in the coming decades, saying that more attention needs to be given to that aspect of the university. Regent Larry Deitch noted that UM charges a healthy price, and he doesn’t believe there’s full value for UM’s lower-division students when some facilities aren’t up to snuff.

The child rape scandal at Penn State was mentioned at two points during the Nov. 17 meeting. Toward the start, board chair Denise Ilitch read a brief statement on behalf of the regents, saying that the board fully supported president Mary Sue Coleman’s Nov. 16 letter to the campus community. The university plans to use this tragic situation, Ilitch said, for thoughtful re-examination of UM’s values, culture and priorities.

At the end of the meeting, Douglas Smith spoke during public commentary, criticizing the university for not protecting alleged victims of sexual assault by UM athletes Brendan Gibbons and Jordan Dumars. Penn State was only an anomaly because the victims were children, he said. But it’s not an anomaly for university administrators to protect their athletic programs rather than the victims, he added – that’s the norm.

Two others spoke during public commentary. Stephen Raiman, founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization, lobbied regents to reverse their previous vote of support for the right of graduate student research assistants to unionize. And Courtney Mercier, founder of Michigan Student-Athletes for Sustainability, advocated for support to improve integration of the athletic department into the university’s sustainability efforts.

Student filmmakers also made a presentation during the meeting, highlighting video public service announcements (PSAs) they’d made for UM’s “Expect Respect” campaign. After they finished, Ilitch asked whether they’d be interested in making a PSA for the regents, too. [Full Story]

UM Regents OK Budget Letter to State

At their Nov. 17, 2011 meeting, University of Michigan regents discussed then approved the university’s annual letter to the state budget director, John Nixon, outlining the 2013 budget needs of the Ann Arbor campus. [link to .pdf of budget development letter] The 12-page letter, officially from UM president Mary Sue Coleman, makes the case that UM needs state support, noting that the Ann Arbor campus receives 30% less in state funding than it did a decade ago. It also provides details of UM’s cost containment efforts and impact on the regional economy.

This year, the state asked universities to provide suggestions for “formula funding” – a mechanism that’s being considered as a way to standardize appropriations for higher education. Regent … [Full Story]

AAPS Trustees Lament State’s “Hoops”

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Oct. 12, 2011): Reaction to new state-level legislation and how it’s affecting the school district was a common theme of nearly every section of the Oct. 12 AAPS board meeting.

Robert Allen Ann Arbor Public Schools

AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen (left) and Washtenaw Intermediate School District transportation director Tom Moore addressed the board's questions regarding transportation. (Photo by the writer.)

At the meeting, the board passed the necessary set of resolutions to qualify for the restoration of $1.6 million of support from the state, as board members criticized the state’s process as “hoops” they needed to jump through.

Budget constraints came up in most of the topics on which the board took action, as well as during two informational updates – one on the bus service, and one on the results of an insurance audit undertaken by the district. Multiple speakers who addressed the board urged trustees to take political action and to lead the community in legislative advocacy and state-level reform.

Transportation service changes were again a major point of discussion at the Oct. 12 meeting. Board members questioned the success of the district’s bus service consolidation with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Four parents spoke at public commentary about safety concerns resulting from loss of bus service, especially with the winter weather approaching.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, the board also voted to purchase additional algebra textbooks, approved the printing of the Rec & Ed catalogue, and renewed a contract for therapeutic services needed for special education students. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Opposes State Aid Transfer

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (March 30, 2011): Wednesday’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board began by welcoming incoming superintendent Patricia Green to the district. Trustees selected Green, who’s been superintendent of schools at North Allegheny School District in Pennsylvania, as the next AAPS superintendent at their March 5 special meeting.

Patricia Green

Patricia Green, incoming superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, spoke during the AAPS board's March 30 meeting. She starts her job in July. (Photo by the writer.)

Green was in town for a brief visit to meet with members of the administration and will start her tenure here in July. Noting that she hopes to make one more visit before then, Green stated her commitment to connecting with the district and encouraging members of the community to reach out.

Wednesday’s meeting was highlighted by talk of how to deal with looming budget issues. The board discussed – then unanimously approved – a resolution opposing the transfer of some state School Aid Fund money, which has traditionally financed K-12 schools, to fund higher education instead. Trustee Andy Thomas called the proposed transfer “a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul scenario, done in a very underhanded manner.”

Budget issues were also a key part of a report to the board by Brit Satchwell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, the teacher’s union. He said the union’s efforts are focused on educating the public about sacrifices the district would have to make to accommodate proposed cuts, keeping in mind concessions that have already been made.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board voted to expand the district’s schools of choice program. They got an update about a partnership with the University of Michigan involving Mitchell Elementary and Scarlett Middle schools, and heard a report on efforts to reduce energy costs throughout the district.

Four people spoke during the time set aside for public commentary. Speakers expressed concern over the district’s scheduling of events in conflict with religious holidays, and objected to a proposed expansion of the parking lot at Haisley Elementary School. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Weighs In On Lawsuit

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Dec. 20, 2010): The AADL board spent much of their December meeting focused on a statewide issue with local implications: New rules issued by the Library of Michigan are being challenged in court. The board ultimately voted to file an amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – brief in support of the Herrick District Library in Holland, which filed suit against the state library. At stake are broader issues of local control, which officials at local public libraries believe would be eroded if the new rules are allowed. The new rules change how libraries qualify for state aid.

The board also got brief updates on plans to deal with the downtown library building and with the parking deal being negotiated between the city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Monday’s meeting wrapped up with a farewell to Carola Stearns, the outgoing board member whose term concludes at the end of the year. [Full Story]

UM Regents Extend President’s Contract

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Nov. 18, 2010): UM president Mary Sue Coleman got a vote of confidence this month, as regents voted unanimously to extend her employment agreement by two years, and added an extra $100,000 annually in deferred compensation payments.

Julia Darlow, Mary Sue Coleman

University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman, seated, talks with Julia Darlow, chair of the UM board of regents, prior to the start of the Nov. 18 regents meeting on the UM Flint campus. (Photos by the writer.)

During their monthly meeting, held on the UM Flint campus, regents also approved a request to the state for a 2.6% increase in appropriations to the university for fiscal year 2012 – though regent Andrea Fischer Newman expressed concern that the request was too low. For the current fiscal year, state appropriations of $316 million represented a 2.8% decrease over fiscal 2010.

Regents got an annual report from the head of the faculty governance group, who proposed an idea to increase the ranks of faculty through a program that would tap retirees. The board also approved several facilities projects, including the purchase of three residential properties in Ann Arbor – two on South Division, next to the Institute for Social Research, and one on Wall Street, near the UM Kellogg Eye Center.

A request to approve a fireworks display at Michigan Stadium during the Dec. 11 “Big Chill at the Big House” generated some discussion, including a query from regent Libby Maynard about whether it would be dark enough to appreciate the display. The sold-out matchup between Michigan and Michigan State, expected to set an attendance record for outdoor hockey games, begins at 3 p.m.

Maynard’s question prompted regent Kathy White to quip: “Unfortunately, it’ll be December in Michigan – it’ll be dark.” [Full Story]

New Trustee, AAPS Board Weigh Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 12, 2010): Last month, Andy Thomas made a report to the board as a member of the Parent Teacher Organization Council. Now, the PTOC will make those reports to a board that includes Thomas.

Andy Thomas AAPS school board member

Andy Thomas, being sworn-in as the newest trustee of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education at its May 12 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Thomas replaces long-time member Randy Friedman, who resigned in April.  The selection of Thomas to the board during last Wednesday’s meeting marks the third change in board membership in the past six months. Thomas’ current term will end at the end of the year, and he – along with trustees Simone Lightfoot, Christine Stead, Deb Mexicotte, and Susan Baskett – will need to be re-elected in November to remain on the board.

Also at the meeting, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students was addressed from multiple perspectives. The proposed Washtenaw Intermediate School District budget was reviewed, and the board was briefed on the district’s finances, sinking fund summer projects, policy updates, and human resources. [Full Story]

State Board: No Funding for Stadium Bridges

East Stadium Bridge, looking west along Stadium Boulevard. (Photo by the writer.)

The East Stadium bridges, looking west along Stadium Boulevard. (Photo by the writer.)

The city of Ann Arbor’s attempt to start accumulating cash to replace the East Stadium Boulevard bridges failed on Thursday when a statewide board appropriating money for large bridges declined to give the city a share of the available dollars.

City officials had hoped to secure a portion of the $5.7 million in federal and state dollars awarded by the Local Bridges Advisory Board on Thursday at a meeting in Lansing.

But with a limited pot of money, and applications for projects totaling tens of millions of dollars, the eight-member board opted to put the resources behind smaller-ticket bridges.

“Throwing a little bit at that big a problem isn’t going to get people anywhere,” said board chairman Robert Clegg, the city engineer in Port Huron. [Full Story]