WL schools’ sinking fund up for renewal

By: Eric Czarnik | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 2, 2012

WALLED LAKE — Eight years after the sinking fund first passed, Walled Lake Consolidated School District officials now say it’s time for voters to start thinking about its renewal.

Last June, Board of Education members agreed to put a building and site sinking fund renewal proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. The renewal plan calls for 0.5 mill over 10 years, and officials estimate that it would raise around $2 million annually.

A resident within school district boundaries who owns a home with a $200,000 market value would pay $50 annually toward the fund, should the renewal pass.

Voters last approved a sinking fund in 2004, according to Bill Chatfield, the district’s director of operations. Chatfield said the sinking fund has allowed the district to invest in more than $18 million worth of projects since then — if you count the projects on the 2012 list.

“It’s a dedicated source of funding that goes strictly toward school repair, renovations and modifications,” he said. “Instructional systems change from time to time and require different facility arrangements.”

According to officials, the funds have been tapped for more than 1 million square feet of parking lot upkeep, as well as to replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, and for new doors, carpets and sidewalks. An exhaustive list of repairs and projects is located on the district’s website, www.wlcsd.org.

Chatfield stipulated that the Michigan Department of Treasury audits school district sinking funds to make sure that the funds are being spent appropriately.

Under state law, a sinking fund may not give school districts a blank check. According to officials, they can’t use the money on technology or computers, such equipment as light bulbs or maintenance supplies, furniture, buses, employee salaries or benefits, or routine maintenance.

Chatfield said the district’s 24 facilities handle a load of more than 15,000 people per day, which he said puts wear and tear on those structures until things eventually break. If voters reject the sinking fund renewal, the district’s building repairs would likely have to compete with educational dollars for funding, officials said.

District spokeswoman Judy Evola said she thinks residents she has talked to understand the situation, due in part to sharing school data.

“I think the reason that we posted all the individual projects by school is they’re interested as to where the money has been sent,” she said. “They’re very reassured when they see the list and what has been done at their school.”

As previously reported in the Beacon, the West Bloomfield School District is proposing a 1.5-mill sinking fund proposal this November for its building and site needs.

Learn more about the Walled Lake Consolidated School District plan by calling (248) 956-2000.