Ann Arbor school board approves wording change on November ballot proposal
The original ballot proposal had been approved at the board’s Aug. 21 regular meeting, including a phrase that board members had added to the language prepared by its bond counsel.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Tuesday is the deadline to submit language to the clerk’s office for the Nov. 5 ballot.
Initially, the school board had passed language Aug. 21 calling for a five-year renewal of its sinking fund millage that would take effect in 2015. The sinking fund is used annually by the district to pay for capital improvement and enhancement projects.
The tax is one mill levied on property taxes within the district that draws in about $7.5 million per year for physical property maintenance. The owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 pays about $100 per year.
Because the board had added the phrase “to the extent permitted by law, for other purposes, including but not limited to” to the ballot language, the proposal was technically not a “renewal” of the millage but a “continuation,” said board President Deb Mexicotte. Based on board procedure, a special meeting had to be called to change the wording to “continuation.”
The board voted 5-0 to approve the change in a 20-minute meeting Monday. Present were Trustees Simone Lightfoot, Andy Thomas, Vice President Christine Stead and Mexicotte, and Trustee Glenn Nelson cast his vote via teleconference. Trustees Irene Patalan and Susan Baskett were absent.
The following is the ballot language that will appear before voters, with the change that was approved Monday in bold and the phrase added by the school board Aug. 21 in italics:
“This proposal would continue and extend 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. This proposal would also allow the use of proceeds of the millage for any purposes permitted by law.
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.”
Trustees were intent on making the language for the sinking fund millage broader in scope to accommodate for any potential changes in state law.
As Michigan law stands now, use of sinking fund millage is somewhat restricted. School districts can’t use the funds to pay for furniture, technology or salaries for teachers and administrators, for example.
“As funded has at least stagnated for some districts and declined quite a bit for many, there has been more discussion about how to support some things like transportation,” Stead said. “So that was one of the potential purposes of what the sinking fund could be used for. We’ve had transportation on our list of cuts for the last three years in a row. I expect we’ll continue to have it on our list and we’ll continue to vet it.”
A package of bills introduced this spring by state legislators, including a bill from Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, has the AAPS Board of Education hopeful that the use of sinking funds could be extended to pay for additional projects—including technology purchases and transportation.
Nelson and several other board members expressed their doubts that changes in state law regarding the use of sinking fund millage in school districts would pass this year.
“I don’t think it’s highly likely that this will pass this year, but if it ever does pass, we deny ourselves the opportunity to use that mechanism. I think our community would hold us accountable for that,” Stead said.
The following are projects that the district plans to fund in the future through its sinking fund millage:
- 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