More support for Breitung schools sinking fund issue
Much debate has ensued in advance of the election next week, when we voters in Breitung Township are being asked to consider the establishment of a sinking fund to assist our school administrators in addressing important, ongoing issues related to maintaining the highest-quality education for our kids. Debate is a good thing, especially when it involves the use of the public’s money — our hard-earned tax dollars which we willingly, but sometimes begrudgingly, part with for, hopefully, the common good.
But in any debate of substance, it is imperative that we get our facts right.
I am compelled to briefly relay to my fellow taxpayers a number of facts that clearly reflect that our administration and school board must surely have put a great deal of thought into this proposal in discharging their most important responsibility as stewards of our tax dollars in laying the foundation for the best education possible for our kids:
— A sinking fund authorized by a district’s voters may be only used for the construction and repair of school buildings, the purchase of land for school buildings, for school safety and security improvements and for the acquisition and upgrading of technology. Period. So, respectfully, let’s dispel any rumors that Breitung Township Schools is somehow seeking to either directly or indirectly fund future compensation and benefit expenditures for the district’s staff and employees. To do so would break the law.
— To further preclude any such extraneous or illegal use of sinking funds, I was informed that every school district in Michigan that establishes a sinking fund must submit to an annual audit with an accounting firm approved by the Department of Treasury.
— Sinking funds offer a much more efficient alternative to millage funding for qualified expenditures. Unlike millage requests, which result in long-term bond retirements involving interest and borrowing costs, sinking funds simply create a specific, expendable fund that is targeted for approved near-term expenditures. A sinking fund is, quite frankly, a very efficient and prudent use of our tax dollars.
–A sinking fund is purposefully limited in scope. It cannot exceed 3 mills, nor can it be created for more than 10 years. The thinking here is very simple: Districts must carefully consider how these funds will be used.
In the case of Breitung Township Schools, the district is asking for .9 mills over 10 years. This will generate an annual fund of about $375,000 from which the district can withdraw to address a growing list of facility repairs and upgrades.
It makes least sense to wait until these relatively smaller, albeit important, issues become one crisis after another that result in asking we voters via bond proposals for new construction. The smart thing, folks, is to stay on top of thing, to pay as we go, to meet these financial obligations when they arise.
At the end of the day, this proposal comes down to what kind of school district we want for our kids and community. To maintain our commitment to our kids to give them the best chance possible in these most challenging times, we need to be smart about how we spend our tax dollars. A sinking fund, limited in scope, is in my view, a most wise step.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” “A penny wise, a dollar foolish,” or whatever your cliché preference is, a sinking fund for capital projects is a wise decision for reducing the cost of future repairs and capital projects. We do not neglect our own homes because we know it will cost more in the end.
Future careers will entail STEM, computer science, coding and other technologies. When budgets get tight, the important, but not necessarily urgent technology expenditures often are put on the back burner. With total quality at the forefront for this community, back burning these important issues is simply unacceptable.
The district has a long-range vision with short-term, mid-range and long-term goals built in to the sinking fund plan. In year one, BTS will:
— Increase student access to technology through STEM integration, add Wi-Fi access points, provide greater access to computers and Chromebooks, upgrade the CAD lab and enrich science instruction through problem and project-based approaches.
— Begin the KHS auditorium electrical and lightening upgrades, replace the integrated clock system at Woodland Elementary, increase building security with more electronic door access points.
— Explore playground structures.
— Upgrade food service equipment.
In year two to three and beyond, BTS will:
— Continue instructional technology upgrades.
— Complete restroom modernization project.
— Complete unit ventilator digital changeover.
— Add band, music and drama storage.
— Upgrade parking lot and student drop off efficiencies.
— Updates to the Camp Sanford Outdoor Education Center.
— Resurface the tennis court.
A complete listing of the strategic plan can be viewed at www.kingsford.org.
The bottom line is this sinking fund proposal has been mindfully thought through, and the dollars generated are much needed and will be well spent for the benefit of our students and the community. #proudtobeaflivvers
There is no doubt a sinking fund millage is the right choice for the Breitung Township Schools and the community it represents. Not only does it makes sense from an economic perspective, it is a wise move from an educational standpoint as well.
A sinking fund millage is a limited property tax designated for very specific uses including enhancement of student access to technology, updating school security, provide ongoing building and site repairs or upgrades and purchase property.
To be very clear, school sinking funds cannot be used for salaries, routine maintenance, pensions or other operational expenses. To ensure compliance with the law, sinking funds are audited annually by the Michigan Department of Treasury.
From an economic standpoint, a sinking fund helps protect the community’s long-term investment of our multimillion-dollar facilities by making repairs and upgrades on an ongoing basis thus avoiding more costly expenditures in the future. A well-kept facility is an important indicator of a community that cares about education. Local employers recognize that prospective employees coming to the area look for two things: quality schools and quality healthcare. A sinking fund will help attract talent to our community and build our workforce by offering a school system of high quality.
From an educational standpoint, in a rapidly changing technological environment, it is important that we equip our schools with the tools necessary to appropriately prepare students to be future ready. Our future workforce will rely on technology, computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) thinking. This sinking fund millage is about supporting access to instructional technologies that will meet the challenge of preparing our students to compete in the global marketplace with up-todate workforce relevant opportunities.
The board of education has worked with administration to set a long-range vision including a systematic approach to the sustained upkeep of facilities and the provision of appropriate access to technology for all students. Based on this vision, priorities have been set in the form of short-term and long-range plans. More information regarding the intended uses of a BTS sinking fund can be found at www.kingsford.org. welcome you to support this important proposal by taking the time out of your busy schedule to vote on Nov. 7.
Robert J. Hendrickson