Monday, May 16, 2016

Sinking Fund Election for Lake Orion School District

When Proposal A was passed by Michigan’s voters in 1994, homeowner property taxes were lowered, with the state gaining control of each public school district’s operating budget.  But Prop A’s passage kept districts in charge of maintaining their buildings and the State expects them to use local tax levies like building and site sinking funds and bond millages to address their facility needs.  With Orion Township’s population growing significantly in the 1990s and early 2000s, voters did pass bonds to primarily construct a number of new schools, but the District has never had a dedicated sinking fund to address long-term building repairs and equipment replacement.  

As a result, more than $40 million in building projects throughout the District have been put on hold over the past decade due to two failed bonds, budget constraints spurred by funding cuts, as well as ongoing healthcare and retirement cost increases, and our strong desire to keep academic programs intact.  But today, our buildings have reached a point where routine maintenance of aging systems and equipment is not effective and continuously trying to put a band-aid repair on items that need to be replaced just does not make fiscal sense.

Most people who live here agree our public school system is a strong point of pride and one of the key reasons people chose to live here.  Our school buildings, which average age of 40 years, represent more than $300 million in community assets.  They must be maintained for Lake Orion students today and tomorrow.  It is true our district’s enrollment has declined, requiring us to make some tough restructuring decisions in the near future, but we will still have school buildings to maintain.  They cannot be neglected. A building and site sinking fund is a financially responsible way to raise funding for these buildings, without burdening voters with the long-term debt and interest a bond millage incurs.  It also should be noted our District is not setting a precedent with the proposed sinking fund. More than one-third of the State’s public school districts are using them now to address their facility needs.  In fact, 12 of 28 districts in Oakland County have a sinking fund.  These include Bloomfield Hills, Huron Valley, Novi, Walled Lake and West Bloomfield, among others. 


As this community has grown and become an attractive place to live for so many people, so have the values of their homes.  For people in our community who have lived here for many decades, their home values have increased dramatically.  Our award-winning schools have played a key role in their appreciation.  Just as homeowners invest in maintaining their homes, the State expects communities like ours to keep their school buildings in shape.  I hope you recognize this and realize a building and site sinking fund tax levy is now the best way for Lake Orion to help assure our school facilities remain intact for many more decades to come. 

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