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West Bloomfield, Walled Lake

November 7, 2012

School sinking fund proposal passes in Walled Lake, falls in West Bloomfield

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Nov. 6 wove a tale of two school sinking fund proposals in the greater West Bloomfield area: One floated to victory while another just sank.

In the Walled Lake Consolidated School District, voters passed a 10-year renewal of a 0.5-mill building and site sinking fund millage with a vote of 61.5-38.5 percent, according to unofficial results with all 41 precincts reporting.

Walled Lake Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said his district overlaps in nine different municipalities, and he spent much time speaking at meetings and teaching potential voters about the renewal proposal.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said, “particularly because people know it’s not a new tax.”

Gutman explained that the proposal would cost around $50 for a resident who owns a $200,000 home with an SEV of $100,000. The sinking fund renewal promises to bring in an estimated $2 million annually to the district that can be used on critical facility repairs, he said.

According to school officials, school sinking fund proponents said they are designed to relieve pressure off of districts’ general funds. A sinking fund may neither be used for teacher salaries nor everyday maintenance, school officials said.

“I can tell you, over time (the fund) has taken care of boilers and chillers and parking lots essentially,” Gutman said.

“When you look at the amount of space you have as a district, this allows them to keep them all in good repair.”

But while Walled Lake’s sinking fund proposal was successful at the polls, the West Bloomfield School District’s proposal for a new building and site sinking fund millage was not.

By a 46-54 percent vote, a 10-year, 1.5-mill tax proposal was rejected at the ballot box, according to unofficial results with 17 out of 17 precincts reporting. The levy was supposed to raise around $2.45 million during its first year, and it would have cost a homeowner with a $200,000 market value home $150 annually, school officials said.

West Bloomfield Superintendent Gerald Hill said he felt really good about the reception that the schools’ informational campaign had. He said he spoke to parent-teacher groups, Optimist clubs, local chambers of commerce and West Bloomfield and Orchard Lake officials about the plan.

“Those people who have had the opportunity to walk through the rationale, the need for that building and site sinking fund… seem to understand and appreciate why the board made the decision to move forward,” Hill said.
While the proposal lost this time, Hill thanked his supporters and suggested that the issue might come back in the future.

“The Board of Education would have to take another look at the building and site sinking fund and determine whether or not to go before the voters again, and if there would be any change in the (ballot) question,” he said.

Learn more about the West Bloomfield School District at www.wbsd.org or the Walled Lake School District at www.wlcsd.org.

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