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March 19, 2019 12:46 pm

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SPS To Seek Renewals, Increased Funding May 7

Saugatuck area voters will get several chances to improve their local schools on May 7 when they can vote on four proposals calling for two fund renewals and two increases.
At Monday night’s Saugatuck Public School Board meeting, trustees approved putting the five-year requests before the voters.
Those requests include:
* Proposal I - seeks renewal of 18 mills on non-homestead properties and 1.3174 mills on principal residences from 2013 through 2017. It would raise an estimated $5,578,820 based on current state equalized values, close to 75 percent of next year’s district budget.
* Proposal II - seeks a 0.25-mill renewal to operate public recreation and playground systems. If passed, the schools would collect an estimated $129,474 next year.
* Proposal III - asks approval for the district to borrow up to $1.185 million in general-obligation unlimited tax bonds to acquire, install and equip educational technology for its buildings, plus buy equipment, furnishings and school buses. The estimated millage levied in 2013 for that purpose is 0.59 mills, with the annual average needed to retire the bond debt 0.5 mills over five years.
* Proposal IV - seeks 0.5 mills as a partial renewal of the 1-mill sinking-fund levy which expired in 2008. It would raise an estimated $258,949 in 2013, to be used for construction or repair of buildings, acquiring real estate for sites and other purposes as authorized by state law.
“We will be asking voters for two renewals and two increases,” said SPS Superintendent Rolfe Timmerman. “The two requested increases will go towards making up the 1 mill we lost when the school district’s sinking fund ended four years ago.”
A flush sinking fund would allow the district to perform needed building maintenance, added Timmerman. “We need to repair and replace roofs; there needs to be improvement in our energy efficiency; and our parking lots have to be repaved.”
Taking loans to pay for those items would cost the district significant interest costs…”and those are dollars better spent on school necessities.”
The bond requests are needed to improve the technology component of the educational experience for students, and also to replace an old and failing buses, said the superintendent, who added that these things legally cannot be purchased with sinking fund dollars.
Prior to deciding what requests to bring before the voters, school board members conducted an in-depth analysis of the district’s needs. “We really kept this request streamlined. We are not planning any building projects and they are designed to keep our costs in check as much as possible.”
Timmerman said he is proud of the success of the students in the school system and the dedication the teachers have shown to making it the best learning environment it can be.
“Our test scores have risen despite the fact we’ve been under stress that’s reduced our state revenues to the same as they were in 2001. No one’s costs are the same as they were 12 years ago,” he noted.
Timmerman said district voters need to know that regardless of the outcome of the vote, the district has to take care of needed building maintenance, upgrade technology and replace old buses.
“If these proposals fail to pass, we’ll be forced to take money from instruction…and that is not something any of us want to do. That comes at a cost as well.”
Millages are assessed based on properties’ taxable values, or half of their assessed values, at one mill equaling $1 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation.

For example, the owner of a property with a $200,000 assessed value and $100,000 taxable value would pay $131.74 a year under homestead status if the operating millage passes. Non-homestead properties would pay $131.74 a year under homestead status if the operating millage passes. Non-homestead properties would pay $1,800 yearly.
If passed, the recreation millage, for example, would cost 25 cents per $1,000 of taxable valuation, paying off the bond proposal an average 50 cents per $1,000 valuation and the sinking fund another 50 cents per $1,000.
While the Saugatuck school district has almost always enjoyed strong support from area voters, in May 2009 officials were shocked when a request to renew the same amounts that are being asked for next May was summarily rejected. That vote marked the first time that any school district turned its back on an operating millage since 1994 when the state the Proposal A school funding method.

Operating renewals can’t be taken for granted locally. The district in May 2009 saw its request to renew the same sums above for one year rejected by voters, 388 “no” votes to 350 “yes.” It was the first time a school district turned down an operating millage since Michigan passed its Proposal A school funding formula in 1994. After launching a revamped effort to educate voters about the needs of the school district - and also paring down its planned projects and their related costs - the measures went back before the electorate the following August and was passed.

“The idea of seeking five years for each request now is to help us with planning and consistency,” said Timmerman. “We don’t want to finance beyond our purchases’ life expectancy. We’ll assess needs once again five years from now and see where to go from there.”

SPS To Seek Renewals, Increased Funding May 7

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