Bloomfield Hills School District puts millage proposal on May ballot

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 26, 2018

  Among the projects the Bloomfield Hills School District wants to add if a proposed millage  is passed in May are additional security procedures, such as door cameras.

Among the projects the Bloomfield Hills School District wants to add if a proposed millage is passed in May are additional security procedures, such as door cameras.

Photo by Deb Jacques

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Bloomfield School District voters will decide whether to approve a sinking fund tax for school buildings, facilities and security upgrades May 8.

Superintendent Robert Glass said that the millage, if approved, would replace a current, expiring tax.

If approved, the measure — a levy of 0.7165 mill for six years — would provide estimated revenues to the school district of approximately $2,583,000 during the 2018 calendar year. For example, a home with a taxable value of $100,000 would contribute $71.65 per year.

“It is asking to replace the current sinking fund, which is expiring,” Glass said. “It will allow us to replace that with another sinking fund at the same rate for another six years. It’s really just a continuation of what we currently have.”

The new millage would allow funds to be applied to security and technology needs, as well as facility needs, which is all that the current measure allows for.

“A sinking fund is a pay-as-you-go type of arrangement,” said Glass. “You levy a millage. There’s no borrowing. You are allowed to use that money for the uses designated by the millage — which in this case is facilities. With the May 8 proposal, a new law allows sinking fund money to be used for security and technology infrastructure. ... It will be the same rate of collection as before. People will be paying at the same rate as they are right now” if the millage is approved in May, he said.

The original sinking fund was approved in 2010.

“(The current sinking fund) was passed but was reduced by half (from what was collected before) in 2010, but didn’t go into effect until 2014 because the old sinking fund was still in effect,” said Glass. “It was a five-year renewal. The old one would expire at the end of the 2018 calendar year. If approved, the new measure would be in effect between 2018 to 2023. It would replace the old millage, so it would go into effect immediately.”

If approved, Glass said, there are a few areas the district would specifically want to look at in regard to the funds.

“Our technology infrastructure would include improving the network infrastructure, our wireless capabilities and replacing hardware that needs to be replaced every five to 10 years. It’s an added expense districts didn’t have 20 years ago,” said Glass. “In regard to security, it will allow us to look at our camera systems, door hardware and perhaps even physical changes to some of the buildings that could restrict access to potentially unwanted individuals.”

Some residents have voiced criticism for the millage’s timing, including voter turnout concerns and election costs.

“The elections when there are primaries or general elections are free to the school district,” said Bloomfield Hills resident John Roach. “(My) perception is the special election is scheduled to minimize turnout. It looks like someone is trying to guarantee a yes vote by ‘stuffing the ballot box’ with votes from teachers, administrators and parents. This cannot be a financial emergency that cannot wait three months. It is a replacement millage.”

There will be an extra cost if nothing is added to the ballot. That cost could not be obtained by press time.

Glass said the timing of the vote was scheduled for several reasons, including ensuring that voters are more informed about the matter.

“There are two primary reasons it’s taking place in May,” said Glass. “It allows us to use the money for security and technology sooner, because we do have needs in those areas. This election in November will have a lot of issues on the ballot, including a gubernatorial race. Issues that affect local measures like this tend to not have people as informed when there’s a lot of other, larger, statewide issues, because of voter fatigue. Having it in May lets people hear more information on this specific issue. Should it not pass, it would also give us one or two opportunities to ask voters again before the current money expires.”

Glass said the sinking fund is something the public has supported repeatedly in the past.

“I think it’s a very fiscally responsible plan,” remarked Glass. “It continues something the community was with prior. It allows us to avoid debt and interest. It shows we are being very prudent and reasonable with our needs. The state of Michigan provides no funding for our facilities, so there’s no other way to get money for our buildings. The mechanism communities have to adopt if they want to keep buildings functioning is some sort of bond or sinking fund for the district. It’s also worth noting we also have the lowest millage rate for buildings for a school district for any community in Oakland County by quite a margin. We are only asking for the community to continue giving us the same support they have been for the last several years.”

Absentee ballot application forms must be turned in by 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5, for the ballots to be delivered by mail or by 4 p.m. Monday, May 7, to return the applications in person.


Official ballot language of the proposal

Building and Site Sinking Fund Millage Replacement Proposal
This proposal, if approved by the electors, will replace and extend the authority last approved by the electors in 2010 and which expires with the 2018 levy for the Bloomfield Hills Schools to levy a building and site sinking fund millage. This proposal allows the use of proceeds of the millage for all purposes previously permitted by law as well as newly authorized security improvements and the acquisition or upgrading of technology. Pursuant to State law, the expenditure of the building and site sinking fund millage proceeds must be audited, and the proceeds cannot be used for teacher, administrator or employee salaries, maintenance or other operating expenses. As a replacement of existing authority, shall the Bloomfield Hills Schools, County of Oakland, Michigan, be authorized to levy 0.7165 mills ($0.7165 per $1,000 of taxable valuation), for a period of six (6) years, being the years 2018 to 2023, inclusive, to create a building and site sinking fund to be used for the construction or repair of school buildings, school security improvements, the acquisition or upgrading of technology or for other purposes, to the extent permitted by law? This millage would provide estimated revenues to the School District of approximately Two Million Five Hundred Eighty-Three Thousand ($2,583,000) Dollars during the 2018 calendar year, if approved and levied.

Source: Oakland County Elections Division