News Bites

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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Solar Makes 1/676th the Electricity As Coal In Michigan

For every megawatt hour of electricity produced by solar in Michigan, there are 676 megawatt hours produced by coal. That’s according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Coal accounted for 36 percent of the electricity produced in Michigan in 2016. Solar accounted for 2/10th of one percent of electricity produced in this state.

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Detroit Mayor's Jobs Program Starts With His Office Payroll

Before being convicted on charges related to bribery and kickback scandals, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has as many as 108 full time staffers on his payroll. After he left the number of full time equivalents (FTEs) working in the mayor’s office fell to just 22 in 2013.

According to new audit, current Mayor Mike Duggan had 75 FTEs on the mayoral payroll in 2016. This is up from the 56 full-time equivalent staffers that Duggan employed in 2015.

The surge comes even as the city’s overall workforce has been severely downsized. The number of Detroit city jobs is down 38 percent since 2007, from 9,815 FTEs to 6,077 in 2016. The city didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

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Pension Shortfall Since 2009 is Enough to Give Every Teacher a $180K Bonus

From 2009 to 2016, the gap between how much the state of Michigan has saved and how much it needs to cover pension promises made to school employees and retirees has grown by $17.1 billion. The pension system’s unfunded liability was $12.0 billion in 2009, and it rose to $29.1 billion in 2016.

How much is $17.1 billion? It's enough to give each of the state’s 95,000 public school teachers a $180,000 bonus.

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Not Taxed Enough? How About Now? Is It Ever Enough for Special Interests?

Michigan’s tax on gasoline rose from 19 cents per gallon to 26.3 cents per gallon on Jan. 1, 2017. The money is going to fix roads. This tax increase is expected to raise $236 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The number is expected to rise to $313 million in 2017-18, which will be the first full year the tax hike will be in effect. Analysts project the increased taxes will generate an extra $1.48 billion from 2016-17 to 2020-21.

A media outlet is reporting a special interest group’s Facebook memes claiming that the state is not setting aside money for infrastructure improvements.

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Michigan Motorists Taxed More; Media and Special Interests Say ‘Not Enough’

Since the first of the year, Michigan motorists have been paying 11.3 cents more per gallon of diesel fuel. This was part of a tax increase enacted by the Legislature to increase the amount spent on transportation infrastructure, specifically road repairs. That increase in the cost of diesel fuel is projected to generate $447 million from 2016-17 through 2020-21.

Some media outlets are reporting assertions from special interest groups that this state is failing to set aside any money for infrastructure improvements.

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Feds Subsidize Solar Cell Maker - And Its Customer

A company called Suniva Inc. received millions of dollars in federal subsidies, plus some local and state ones, but in March still closed its solar cell manufacturing facility in Saginaw Township after three years. How much did the company rely on federal money? Its first sale in Michigan was to the Washtenaw Food Hub in Ann Arbor. To offset some of the cost of buying the Suniva solar cells, the organization used a $115,829 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both ends of the deal were subsidized by the federal government.

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Official Would Need 7-Day, 14-Hour Schedule to Juggle Three City Jobs

Accountant Carl Johnson has held high-pay, high-responsibility positions for three different southeast Michigan municipalities — simultaneously. The Canton man works as the finance director for the city of Novi, which pays him $120,100 a year. As an outside contractor, he fills the same position for the city of River Rouge at $150,000 a year. That’s a combined $270,100 a year for the two jobs.

Johnson has also has applied for the controller position at Northfield Township, advertised at 20 hours per week. If the two full-time jobs with their six-figure pay require 40 hours per week each, and the part-time gig adds 20 hours more, Johnson would have to work more than 14 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the combined 100 hours per week.

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Interest on School Pension Underfunding Could Pay Entire Prison System Cost

Michigan’s school pension funding hole just got deeper. As of 2016, the system is $29.1 billion short of the amount its own analysts say is needed to cover future benefits. In 2015, the shortfall was $26.7 billion. The new figure means the pension fund has only enough to cover 59.7 percent of the benefits owed to current and future school retirees.

The $29.1 billion unfunded liability is $2.4 billion higher than the previous year. It represents a debt that will cost taxpayers an additional $2.18 billion in annual interest. That’s more than the $2.00 billion the state will spend on its prison system this year.

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Michigan bed and breakfast David Gersenson has asked the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation to help him fight a tax for advertising he doesn't want or need.

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