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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2011

Mason school board hears pitch for ads to get revenue

Local districts join program

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Luna Pier's mayor, Mary Liske, and a resident, Beth Mooney, urged the school board to do something about the vacant and deteriorating Luna Pier School. Luna Pier's mayor, Mary Liske, and a resident, Beth Mooney, urged the school board to do something about the vacant and deteriorating Luna Pier School.
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ERIE -- The Mason Consolidated school district could improve its revenue stream through advertising, board of education members heard last week.

Joe Holt, general manager at Alternative Revenue Development, told board members that 17 Michigan school districts have signed up with his firm to offer paid advertising on their Web sites or on signage in their buildings.

By next year, ARD could have 240 districts, or half the number in the state, in its paid advertising program, he said.

"We were founded for the sole purpose of finding new and nontraditional revenue for Michigan schools," Mr. Holt said. "You can't raise tuition and are at a disadvantage."

Superintendent David Drewyor said he wasn't sure about the merits of such advertising but wanted the school board to hear Mr. Holt and "see what you think."

Mr. Holt, for his part, touted the program as "brand new" and "innovative."

He emphasized that the advertising did not target children. Districts that have adopted the program include those in Monroe, Southgate, Farmington, and Trenton.

The cost of launching a new ecommerce Web site at Erie would be $1,500, to be deducted from the first check earned, Mr. Holt said.

Just how much Mason could earn depended on how much advertising it wanted and the number of hits its Web site received. The Clintondale Community Schools, another small district got 10 million hits a year on its Web site, he said.

Bobb Vergiels, spokesman for the Monroe Public Schools, said his district had joined the advertising program, but the new Web site was not operational. He said ARD representatives initially said the school system could earn $50,000 to $150,000 a year, but this was 18 months ago.

There were no expressions of enthusiasm from the Mason board.

Member Larry Guinn asked if ARD solicited advertising from businesses in the district that supported sports programs.

Mr. Holt said that would depend on the district's wishes.

Board member Ken Sieg said he opposed the idea of school advertising because he hated pop-up ads.

Mr. Holt replied that the district's Web site would contain no pop-ups.

Of Mr. Holt's proposal, board member Jacki Clark said, "It's something to look at."

In other business, the board heard from Mary Liske, Luna Pier's mayor, and Beth Mooney, a city resident. They urged the district to do something about the disused Luna Pier School building.

Ms. Mooney said her home on Elmhurst Street has been declining in value because of its proximity to the deteriorating structure.

"In addition to the financial issue described, the building's condition is in violation of the city of Luna Pier's blight ordinance, remains in physical disrepair, has frequent security issues that our city officials have to deal with, and remains a fire and health hazard," she said, adding, "This building needs to be torn down and the property cleared."

The district had proposed deeding the building to Luna Pier in return for the city's taking over the school district's water treatment plant. But Ms. Liske said city officials determined this would be a bad deal for them. She said the building was worth $40,000, not the $200,000 quoted by the district.

Mr. Drewyor said the building was worth more than $40,000 but less than $200,000. He said the district could not afford the $45,000 cost of demolishing the building.

Board President Sandra Dobbs referred the matter to the building and grounds committee, which is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow in Mr. Drewyor's office.



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