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January 14, 2013

Clerk: Sinking fund proposal could cost district more

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The cost of holding another West Bloomfield School District millage proposal could be higher than earlier district estimates, according to West Bloomfield’s township clerk.

Clerk Cathy Shaughnessy told the Beacon that a May 7 special election for a proposed building and site sinking fund could cost the school district $50,000 to $75,000.

“It’s actually going to be way closer to 75 (thousand dollars), maybe more,” she said.

In contrast, school officials said at a Dec. 17 Board of Education meeting that an election would only cost $25,000 to $30,000, and that such a fee could be prorated if anyone else puts a proposal on the ballot.

Shaughnessy said one reason for the steep price is that Michigan election law changed in 2012, and that means that school elections are typically reserved for the even years. The law lets school districts set elections during other times, but at their expense, she said.

She said West Bloomfield is home to seven school districts, and only 15 of the township’s 25 precincts are WBSD precincts.

Shaughnessy said it would be unfair to charge all residents in West Bloomfield for one school district’s election. “A resident who lives in West Bloomfield and is in the Walled Lake school district does not want to pay for a West Bloomfield School District election, and vice versa,” she said.

WBSD Superintendent Gerald Hill told the Beacon that he “heard something to that effect” about the election costs being more than earlier predicted, but he said he didn’t see anything in writing. Hill said the $25,000 to $30,000 figures, which were listed in a school memo, may have been based on past election costs.

“We’ll just have to explore that further,” he said.

Hill said any election cost would come out of the school district’s general fund. Even if the costs are more than earlier predicted, Hill said a successful sinking fund election would be worthwhile.

“(The cost) is still a very small percentage of the overall proposition,” he said.

“If you look at it on a annual basis — $2-plus million dollars annually — and if you multiply that over 14 years, and if you do a percentage of costs for having the election, it’s really less than 1 percent — way less than 1 percent.”

Last November, voters turned down the WBSD’s 10-year, 1.5-mill sinking fund proposal. In December, the school board voted to try again with a 14-year, 1.25-mill proposal.

A few residents contacted the Beacon and said they would oppose another attempt to raise taxes. “I believe that there should be at least a one-year moratorium before a school can ask for more money, when we’ve already told them that we didn’t want to spend it,” West Bloomfield resident Richard Johnson said.

Learn more about the West Bloomfield School District at www.wbsd.org or by calling (248) 865-6420.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.