(In Jan. 13 item, corrects Muskegon to Muskegon Heights in penultimate paragraph)
WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed a new emergency manager to Detroit Public Schools on Tuesday, a fresh attempt at fixing budget problems that span nearly a decade.
Darnell Earley, emergency manager of the nearby town of Flint since September 2013, immediately replaced Jack Martin, who has completed his 18-month tenure of managing the district’s budget.
Turning around the school system’s finances, as well as its academic performance, is key to rebuilding the city of Detroit, which emerged from the biggest-ever municipal bankruptcy in November, Earley said at a press conference.
“I am convinced that the final draft of the story of Detroit’s rebirth won’t be completed until the chapter on Detroit Public Schools is rewritten,” he said. “That revision is now some six years in drafting, with at least another 18 months of editing yet to be done.”
When Detroit exited bankruptcy, Mayor Mike Duggan said the city should focus on ending the school system’s financial emergency, which was first declared in 2008 by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm.
The district has run deficits since 2006. It expects a budget gap this fiscal year of $125.75 million, with revenues of $664.8 million, according to its budget.
Over the last five years the system has cut spending by $225 million.
Earley will operate under a 2012 Michigan law intended to bring fiscal stability to struggling school districts and local governments. It included possible 18-month appointments of emergency managers.
Speaking at the conference, Snyder, a Republican who was recently re-elected, said public schools in the Motor City had made large improvements in terms of class attendance and academic achievement. He credited Martin with stabilizing enrollment after two decades of declines.
Nonetheless, Snyder added, a financial emergency remains.
“Have we gotten where we need to be?” he said. “The answer is ‘no.’”
The state has also declared financial emergencies for the Benton Harbor area, Highland Park, Pontiac and Muskegon Heights public school systems, although not all are under manager control.
Earley said Flint’s elected leaders will take back control of the city’s budget in 90 days and its current financial adviser Jerry Ambrose will assume the role of emergency manager through April. (Reporting by Lisa Lambert)