Esky schools look at millage efforts

ESCANABA — The Escanaba School Board discussed what actions are being taken to clarifying voter questions about a sinking fund millage request during a meeting Monday. The 1.8 mill ($1.80 per $1,000 taxable value) sinking fund, for four years will be on the ballot in the Nov. 6 General Election. Over four years, approximately $3.9 million will be generated if the millage passes. A school sinking fund is supported by a millage on all real property and is considered as a “pay as you go” method.

In May, a request for 2.2 mills over five years was defeated by voters. The school board believes it was defeated, in part, because questions about the millage were not answered for the public. It was agreed by board members that more communication was needed regarding the sinking fund.

Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher gathered information from a Sinking Fund Exploratory Committee made of community members, school administration and faculty, to go forward with a revised plan. In the current millage request, the amount of mills and span of years are reduced.

On Oct. 5, a flyer was sent to all parents of students and registered voters explaining why the sinking fund is needed. This time around, the list of work needed is broken down on the website, along with a description of a sinking fund, according to Fletcher.

On the website, it states: “A sinking fund is a way for residents to invest directly in their school system by keeping their tax dollars local. In Michigan, a sinking fund is a millage levied to support school safety improvements, technology improvements, and the repair and construction of school buildings. It is a ‘pay as you go’ system that does not require borrowing money or paying interest. The sinking fund millage is calculated using the taxable value of a home, which is usually about half of the assessed value. Under current legislation, a district can levy up to 3 mills for up to 10 years with voter approval. Sinking funds cannot be used for things like regular maintenance, purchasing teaching supplies or textbooks, or paying teacher and administrator salaries. In fact, the law requires districts with sinking funds to keep these funds separate from other district accounts. Sinking funds must also receive a separate audit each year to ensure they are being spent appropriately. However, having a sinking fund to pay for safety improvements, technology improvements, and repairs allows the district to preserve the money it receives from the state to support instruction, programs, and salaries.”

The school district’s project list for the sinking fund is broken down into four years. $990,000 will be used each year, the same amount estimated to be generated by the sinking fund millage yearly. Each year sinking funds receive an independent audit that is filed with the state to ensure the school is using the fund where it should be apportioned to.

In other business, the board:

– Adding a health care aide at Lemmer Elementary School and an at-risk coordinator at the Upper Elementary School were discussed.

– Merit pay ideas were discussed and a pro vs. con breakdown will be presented at the next meeting, along with the schools audit concluded.

The next school board meeting will take place on Monday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m.