Sinking fund proposal on Aug. 5 ballots for Breitung Township School District

KINGSFORD – Voters in the Breitung Township School District will be asked to approve a sinking fund proposal during the primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

The school district is asking for approval to levy up to .7 mills a year for the next 10 years for a sinking fund.

“The board and administration will see what needs to be done each year and how much millage, if any, will be allocated. It could be nothing,” said Supt. Craig Allen.

He added that they want to express their gratitude and appreciation to the community for approving the bond proposal that allowed the school district to modernize its facilities.

“We want to continue with this pattern of high quality facilities and programs. And with an additional fund – public improvement fund – we can continue to run a quality institution,” he added.

School districts are limited as to what they can do each year – due to what they receive through the state foundation allowance per student. Since expenditures and revenues are close in the school budget each year, Allen said it’s been difficult to build a reserve.

“We haven’t been able to set aside public improvement fund money like we had in the past. In order to do any projects in the future, we will need to build this fund to plan for the types of things that will keep the district facilities and programs at a high level of quality,” Allen said.

A sinking fund is less restrictive than a bond proposal and schools don’t have to pay additional costs like interest. Dollar for dollar what is generated from a sinking fund can be used for a project.

Approval of the sinking fund millage proposal on Aug. 5 will mean that it will be put on the summer taxes next summer.

“Sinking fund millage would be at the same time as the operating millage is during the summer taxes,” he added.

During the 2013 general election, the Breitung Township Schools had two millage proposals before voters. One was a renewal of the 18 mills on non-Homestead property for a 20 years period – the other was a building and site sinking fund tax levy to levy up to .65 mills for 10 years.

The voters approved the renewal millage request, but voted down the sinking fund proposal by 578 yes to 633 no votes.

The current request – to levy up to .7 mills, would be assessed against all property in the Breitung Township School District for a period of 10 years from 2015-24.

At its max levy of .7 mills, this is about 2.4 percent of school district’s budget of approximately $14.5 million.

Allen said that the school district is seeing the use of the facilities and school grounds more as a community gathering place – activities are going on year-round.

This summer for example, many camps, classes, the child care center, free food program and sporting events are going on at the Breitung Township Schools’ facilities.

“We want to keep a high quality facility that is available for the community to use in the future. Some projects that we would look to do with sinking fund monies include the more public-used areas like the auditorium and child care center,” he said.

In the auditorium, the curtain is in need of repair and the lighting needs some work since it is used by both the school district and the public a lot. They would also like to find more storage at the school for the fine arts/music department.

“There is a shortage of space and anything we add, we want it to be in close enough proximity to the music department. The idea would be to utilize this fund to build a storage area adjacent to the auditorium and make sure it was similar in style to the current building so it blends in,” Allen said.

Other plans would be to put a school clock system in all the buildings so that it’s uniform in each of the rooms and buildings in the district.

Rapid growth is also going on at the Woodland Child Care Center, he said, especially since the program is taking in 2 1/2 year-olds. They would be looking to right-size the play equipment so it’s appropriate for that age group.

Allen also said that on the list is the Woodland Elementary School roof, which is 7-10 years out from having to be replaced.

In the past, the district has put in money into a public improvement fund a little at a time to save up for this large expense. The cost would be about $500,000 to re-roof that building.

With a sinking fund, they could again set aside money each year for this purpose without having to use the instructional money.

“Although nothing is in dire need, this is just a part of the district’s vision to keep the facilities and school up the expectations of the community. And creating this kind of a fund is the way to be able to accomplish that,” he said.

In the past, the public improvement fund was added to each year by the school board to set aside money for future projects. But that hasn’t happened in more than five years. Allen said that it’s been basically money in and money out with nothing put away for future needs.

With the current funding for schools dependent on the state aid allowance, many other school districts have already gone out for millage proposals that set up a sinking fund tax levy for that purpose.

Linda Lobeck’s e-mail address is llobeck@ironmountaindailynews.com.