News Bites

Federal Spending To Top $4 Trillion in 2017, Highest Ever

Mainstream media reports are filled with stories from federal bureaucrats complaining about President Donald Trump's administration's proposals to cut next year's budget.

Yet federal spending this year is projected to break $4 trillion for the first time, according to White House budget documents. The federal government will spend $4.06 trillion in the fiscal year that ends on Oct. 1, 2017, an increase of $210 billion from the previous year. The spending total is also $602.5 billion more than the $3.46 trillion the feds expect to take in this year.

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20 Percent Of Michigan Jobs Disappeared Last Year – But Slightly More New Ones Were Created

Michigan’s dynamic economy is in a state of constant flux. In 2016, 825,800 new jobs were created in Michigan, and 779,810 jobs disappeared, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Around one of every five jobs in 2016 were eliminated and a little bit more than that were added. To put this in perspective, it’s as if Ford Motor Co. laid off and rehired all 40,000 of its Michigan employees – 18 times a year.

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We’re No. 13: Fuel Price, Gas Tax Up In Michigan And Elsewhere

The current statewide average cost for a gallon of regular gas was $2.393 as of July 24. That means Michigan has the nation’s 13th-highest gas price. A 7.3-cent tax increase on each gallon of gas, which went into effect earlier this year, is contributing to that rank.

In the Midwest, only Pennsylvania had a higher price ($2.502). South Carolina ($1.985) had the lowest price in the U.S. The national average was $2.284, according to AAA.

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Michigan Unemployment Rate Lower For Not-The-Best Reason — But Still Very Low

Michigan’s unemployment rate declined to 3.8 percent last month. The number of people employed went down by 9,000 in June, while the labor force declined by 29,000. While a decline in the number of people employed would by itself cause the unemployment rate to go up, the shrinkage of the labor force drove the unemployment rate down from 4.2 percent to 3.8 percent.

The lowest-ever Michigan unemployment rate since these records were tracked in 1976 was 3.2 percent in March, 2000.

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Union Gets $241k From Turning Teachers Over to Collections Agency

The state’s largest teachers union has turned many public school employees over to collection agencies when they stopped paying union dues after the state’s right-to-work law became effective.

Between 2013 and 2016, the Michigan Education Association reported receipts of more than $241,000 from teachers it had turned over to bill collection agencies, according to disclosures the union filed with the federal government.

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Social Media: Did Betsy DeVos Stiff Waiter On $500 Restaurant Bill?

A social media story circulating on Twitter and Facebook has it that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stiffed the wait staff after a recent dinner in Saugatuck. DeVos was part of a party that ate at Bowdies Chophouse the weekend before July 4.

According to one Facebook post by a Saugatuck woman, the bill for the evening was $500 and the party left no tip for the wait staff. The post was shared 372 times by July 10.

Tyler Bowdish, who operates Bowdies, said he had seen the social media post but didn’t know how to handle it. Bowdish said he served the DeVos party that night. “I personally took care of them that night. There is no truth to it.”

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1 In 10 People Who Had Property Forfeited To Police Were Not Charged With A Crime

Ten percent of the people in Michigan who had some property seized by and then forfeited to the police in 2016 were not charged with a crime. That’s according to a new report from the Michigan State Police on asset forfeiture, a judicial process that lets a government agency keep the seized property.

There were 523 people who had property forfeited but were not charged with a crime. In total, 5,205 people were included in the survey. The report states that $12 million in cash and property was forfeited last year.

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Two Michigan Cities Ranked Among Nation’s Best Places To Be A Teacher

Michigan is a pretty good place to be a K-12 teacher, according to the website GoodCall. It ranked the best cities in the U.S. to teach in terms of job availability, pay, how the area values education and its livability.

The city of Troy was ranked fifth nationally, making it the highest-ranked city in Michigan. Southfield was sixth. Michigan had 10 cities place in the top 100.

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Superintendent Gets Above Average Pay, District’s Teachers, Below Average

As superintendent of Edwardsburg Public Schools, Sherman Ostrander’s total salary in 2015-16 was $249,400, a $14,400 increase from his 2013-14 pay. That made Ostrander the fourth-most expensive school superintendent in the state of Michigan last year, based on state pension system records. Ostrander had a $161,000 base salary in 2015-16, but had additional payments such as $42,000 that was identified as "supplemental."

The average salary of the teachers in Edwardsburg was $54,487 in 2015-16, about 12 percent below the state average of $61,875. The ceiling for Edwardsburg teacher pay is $70,843, which is only attained after 22 years on the job according to the union contract. The Cass County district in southwest Michigan has an enrollment of 2,726 students with 136 teachers.

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Teacher Makes $77k, Gets $13k Raise Over 5 Years, Complains It's 'Embarrassing'

Ann Arbor Public Schools teacher Trevor Staples says teachers in the district aren’t paid enough. At a June 14 school board meeting Staples said it was "shameful, embarrassing" to have to speak every year about teacher compensation, according to the news site Annarbivore.com.

Staples salary has increased from $64,367 in the 2010-11 school year to $77,729 last year. That’s a 20.7 percent, $13,362 increase over a 5-year period, according to records received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The average Ann Arbor teacher was paid $71,564 in 2015-16, while the average Michigan teacher statewide earned $61,875 on average.

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