By: Blake Prewitt, Superintendent, Ferndale Public Schools
LAST WEEK THE FERNDALE SCHOOLS Board of Education unanimously voted to request a sinking fund millage be added to the August ballot. A sinking fund millage is a limited property tax, considered a “pay-as-you-go” method for funding building maintenance and infrastructure projects. No debt or interest expense is incurred with a sinking fund. The tax is levied each year and the revenue generated from this levy is designated to building upgrades or repairs only. Sinking fund revenues cannot be used for general fund expenditures (i.e., paying staff.)
Our reasons for requesting this millage are threefold:
• All current funding given to us by the state is needed in the classroom. Over the past decade, there have been severe cuts to the state’s per pupil allocation, which is the primary source of funding for the district’s ongoing operations.
As part of the ongoing restructuring process, the District has identified $13 million worth of projects over the next 15 years that are critical improvements to school safety, such as building and site repairs. Suspending these facility repairs would result in more expensive emergency repairs in the future. With less money to begin with, many districts are forced to make this difficult choice between educational integrity and structural integrity.
• We are not alone in this need. We are one of the few districts in Oakland County that does not currently have a sinking fund. The state’s lack of education funding has put increasing strain on school districts across Michigan, and Ferndale is no exception.
• There’s no alternative. After perpupil allocations, the only additional means available to fund the district is to ask voters for approval to levy mills for a sinking fund – funds to renovate and maintain facilities – and mills for debt, more commonly known as a bond.
As you know, the community recently passed a bond in 2012 for $22 million. However, the original amount of work identified in 2012 was to cost over $35 million. The law on bond funds prohibited the district from asking for that amount, and so the project was scaled down, leaving many issues unresolved.
The sinking fund would allow the district to systematically respond to critical school safety needs and building repairs, ultimately reducing the total cost while prioritizing student safety.
For more information, please visit: www.ferndaleschools.org/district/fac ilities/sinking-fund/. Thank you for carefully considering this important issue.
With Eagle Pride,
Blake J. Prewitt, Ed.S. Superintendent
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