Ann Arbor schools to seek millage renewal for property upkeep in November
Chris Asadian | AnnArbor.com
The board voted 5-0 during its regular meeting to approve the ballot language for a sinking fund millage renewal. Trustees Simone Lightfoot and Susan Baskett were absent.
The school district will be seeking a five-year renewal of the millage at the same rate it was previously—1 mill. That means the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay $100 per year.
The sinking fund millage at the 1 mill tax rate was last approved by voters in 2008 and expires in 2014.
Should the renewal win voters’ support, it would take effect in 2015. Officials anticipate about $7.5 million would be collected in the first year—about the same amount that the district has been collecting since 2008.
By law, funds garnered from the millage cannot pay for general building maintenance, furniture, technology or salaries for teachers and administrators.
The district had been considering adding a bond proposal to the sinking fund millage renewal ballot language, but the school board nixed the idea at its previous meeting due to input from its legal counsel.
At the request of several trustees, said Tim Gruszczynski, supervisor of environmental services for AAPS, outlined a list of impending repair and replacement projects that the passing of the renewal millage would fund:
- Replacement of turf on athletic fields, which is reaching the end of its 10-15 year lifespan
- Replacement of two nearly 30-year-old underground storage tanks at the transportation yard
- Replacement of a 25-year-old fiberglass storage tank at the Balas Administration Building
- Replacement of the original cooling tower equipment at Huron High School
- HVAC system upgrade
- Replacement of clocks, bells, announcement systems
- Roofing projects
- Paving projects
- Asbestos and lead abatement
- Replacement of all exterior doors
Trustee Andy Thomas questioned whether the $7.5 million that was budgeted for maintenance from 2015 to 2019 would be enough to care for the district’s aging property portfolio.
With the exception of Skyline High School, most buildings were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s—and some are even older, including Burns Park Elementary School, Angell Elementary School and Eberwhite Elementary School, Thomas said.
“I feel we’re near, if not past, the useful life of our buildings,” Thomas said.
All of the buildings owned by AAPS are worth $518 million, Gruszczynski said.
Gruszczynski acknowledged that there were some issues with the old buildings.
Trustee Glenn Nelson said that without the renewal of the millage, general fund dollars would have to be taken away from teachers and classrooms.
"This is a renewal, not a tax increase from current levels, and continues our commitment to excellent schools, rather than expands our commitment," Nelson said.
Vice President Christine Stead expressed her concern that the ballot language not be made too specific as to restrict the district's use of the sinking fund millage dollars should state law change.
"There has been legislation introduced more recently that may allow some expansion for services," Stead said. "Transportation potentially being covered by this could be a huge benefit to our community as well. That would be something to share with our community for possible expansion of scope for how some of these funds might be used—even though it's not super likely to happen, should it be possible, it would be a huge missed opportunity for the community to not have that ability to fund something that's a significant cost in our general obligation fund."
Trustees added wording to the draft of the ballot language they were considering to make the potential future use of the money collected by the millage broader in scope.
The following is the ballot language that the school board approved Wednesday night:
“This proposal would renew the authority last approved by voters in 2008 and which expires with the 2014 levy for the Public Schools of the City of Ann Arbor to levy a sinking fund millage.
As a renewal of authorization which expires with the 2014 levy, shall the Public Schools of the City of Ann Arbor, County of Washtenaw, Michigan, be authorized to levy 1.00 mill ($1.00 per $1,000 of taxable valuation) to create a sinking fund for the purpose of the construction or repair of school buildings and the improvement and development of sites and, to the extent permitted by law for other purposes including but not limited to the acquisition and installation of furnishings and equipment, by increasing the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be imposed on taxable property in the School District for a period of five (5) years, being the years 2015 to 2019. It is estimated that 1.00 mill ($1.00 per $1,000 of taxable valuation) would raise approximately $7,450,000 in the first year that it is levied.”
With its action Wednesday night, the school board has met the Aug. 27 deadline to file for the Nov. 5 ballot.