Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Michigan has thousands in cash that belongs to metro Detroit schools

Michigan has thousands in cash that belongs to metro Detroit schools, but they have to claim it 1st

Both Print and video stories are below


Local 4 Defenders investigation uncovers schools from Canton to Pontiac, Troy to Warren have money owed to them, but many are unaware it exists

Published On: Jan 07 2013 12:20:02 AM EST  Updated On: Jan 07 2013 12:15:04 PM EST

Does your school have unclaimed cash?
DETROIT - Metro Detroit schools could have thousands of dollars coming to them, but they have to know about it to claim it.

A Local 4 Defenders investigation discovered there is a lot of money coming to area schools that the state is holding until someone claims the cash.

The Local 4 Defenders were given special access to the unclaimed property vault for the state of Michigan.
"This past fiscal year we received $177 million and the previous year we received $359 million, so we're talking in the millions of dollars," said Gonzalo Ilano the administrator for Michigan's Unclaimed Property Division.

"The state of Michigan serves as a central depository for all abandoned and unclaimed property in Michigan, most of what we receive is monies represented from checks that have gone uncashed," said Ilano.

That is millions of dollars sitting at the Michigan Department of Treasury that's owed to people, businesses and schools, unfortunately many are unaware the money exists.

 "I'm guessing these were probably checks that were written to the schools or the PTAs, or whatever the situation might be, and the checks just never got cashed. They fell through the cracks somehow, so by law, whoever wrote the checks out are required to turn those funds over to the state," said Ilano.

The list of schools that has money owed to them goes on and on to include metro Detroit  elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, entire districts.  There are also specific groups like the Northville high cheerleading squad, and Pontiac central high school swim team.

For example, the Local 4 Defenders found more than $1,800 for Canton High School.   The school's principal, Carrie Lawler, was excited to hear about the unclaimed cash.

WATCH: Defenders find money for metro Detroit schools
"We're a school system and we're hurting for money, so we'll take whatever we can get. So, it's, it's not a ton of money, but I can definitely find a thousand ways to use it." said  Lawler.

Lawler said she wants to use the extra cash to help finance The Link Crew, a program that helps freshmen transition to high school both academically and socially.  The money would be used to help cover costs of meetings and supplies.

For Pontiac schools, the Local 4 Defenders discovered more than $5,000 in unclaimed cash.

"I guess it would've been nice, instead of the check sitting somewhere else, if that could've been forwarded to us, but you know what we're glad to get it, and we're glad to have the information from you that was a great, great phone call," said Dr. Brian Dourghtery of Pontiac Schools to Local 4 Defender Karen Drew.

Superintendent Dourghtery told Local 4 his district is facing a $25 million debt, and while the extra money won't solve his problems, it's still appreciated.

"Our teachers, our administrator, everyone is very in tune to this, that we don't have money for those little extras, said Dourghtery.

The money comes from a variety of sources including Coca Cola, which has a lot of uncashed checks to schools because of money owed to districts because of vending machines inside schools.  In other cases, the unclaimed cash is refunds from school photo sessions, grant money owed to districts, and schools that were unnecessarily taxed so refunds were issued.

The Local 4 Defenders uncovered Detroit Public Schools has thousands and thousands of dollars available for its students.  Detroit Public Schools released a statement about the money that said "we very much appreciate you bringing this to our attention, and we are setting up a system to regularly monitor the site you brought to our attention.  Every dollar counts, and any additional funds that are made available to DPS will be used to help us provide the nearly 50,000 students of Detroit Public Schools with the quality education they deserve."

As for the Troy School District, the Local 4 Defenders found about $8,000.

"We are pleased you brought this to our attention so we can get this money to the people that need it," said Kerry Birmingham the director of community and media relations for the Troy School District. "We believe that some of the money belongs to student groups, we believe that some of this money belongs to alumni organizations who are planning class reunions, and we believe some of it may be refunds that are due to the district and in times like this every organization, and every school and every student group could use every penny."

Clarkston Junior High also has cash coming to it, about $1,500.

"Fifteen hundred dollars can do a lot of different things.  I mean technology items, it could help with student learning, we could do things for teacher resources that we may not be able to purchase as easily. We can do, bring in some sort of guest speakers to help with certain programs that we wouldn't otherwise be able to do," said principal Adam Kern.

Kern began doing some of his own investigating after the Local 4 Defenders alerted him to the unclaimed cash.

"As soon as you contacted me and kind of gave me the email information, I looked it up and looked under Clarkston and found the junior high a couple times and then as I was looking through it more, our high school is on there three or four times, our central office is on there a few times, our community education, our Clarkston athletic boosters, our Clarkston foundation which is a lot academic information for us," said Kern.

Kern contacted the business director, superintendent and people at the central office to let them know about the money.

The Local 4 Defenders also found more than $500 for Lincoln Park high school, $1,600 for Detroit Country Day, more than $800 for the Ann Arbor School for Creative Arts, and more than $2,700 for Warren Woods High School.

Warren Cousino High School has $800 coming to it.

"So it would be fair to assume that this kind of money would be focused on children first as a means of supporting their education," said Dr. Robert Liverois, superintendent for Warren Consolidated School.

Liverois said his district regularly checks the unclaimed cash website.

"So we found it necessary to put a procedure in place that would allow us to formally pursue that money and we've been successful," said Liverois.

To check if your child's school could have unclaimed cash, click here.