Eastpointe voters to consider sinking fund measure

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published October 22, 2019

 Eastpointe voters will decide whether or not to approve a sinking fund for Eastpointe Community Schools when they vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Eastpointe voters will decide whether or not to approve a sinking fund for Eastpointe Community Schools when they vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

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EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe Community Schools is asking voters to approve a sinking fund measure that will appear on ballots on Nov. 5.

If approved, the measure would collect 3 mills — $3 per every $1,000 of taxable valuation — each year from taxpayers for a period of 10 years. It would provide the district with an estimated $1.5 million in revenue in 2020.

“The unfortunate part of a sinking fund is it’s a goofy name for an important source of funding for schools,” Eastpointe Superintendent Ryan McLeod said. “It helps provide for school safety upgrades and for building improvements and technology infrastructure. It’s earmarked for those things, and its funds can’t be used for anything else.”

McLeod said that the sinking fund is not a new tax, but rather a replacement of revenue that the district will lose because of a previously approved bond measure that is coming to a close.

“We’re trying to help voters understand this fund is about school safety and taking care of our building,” he said. “We have previously had some bonds and other debt that the district had that was approved before. This has been fully repaid, and this sinking fund would replace that debt. The 3 mills people will be voting on would replace the 3 mills lost this year from the bonds.”

The sinking fund would be a direct millage measure, collecting funds for every year it is approved, as opposed to the previous bond measure, which provided all the money up front, which then needed to be repaid by taxpayers.

“Bonds, like the measure we previously had in place, give you all the money up front and then you have to pay it back with interest,” McLeod said. “This fund will be collected gradually via taxes, but that means you get the money without having to pay interest on it.”

The most significant part of the district that will benefit from the sinking fund measure, if it is approved, is school safety, according to the district.

“Our plan will include doing a full survey of the whole district,” said McLeod. “We will start with school safety upgrades. This will include putting in new entrances that require visitors to need to be buzzed in to get into the building. This also could include upgrading windows. We plan to contract with a school security expert to give us recommendations building by building to bring all of our buildings up to today’s standards. Even our newest buildings are not built to the security standards of today.”

McLeod added that other building and facilities improvements also could benefit from the funds.

“We also may work on heating and cooling systems, as several of them are aging,” he said. “We would like to improve our computer capabilities and equipment. We will be making many of these decisions throughout the next 10-year period.”

Eastpointe High School Principal John Summerhill said such measures are crucial to the education of students.

“I think what it does is it adds to the educational experience to our students,” he said. “It allows us to maintain our facilities and grounds. It provides an environment that is happier and healthier for everybody. You can’t have a school without a building, and things like broken windows or leaks in the roof do happen.”

It can also provide help with emergency building repairs.

“Sometimes unexpected things happen that are not included in the budget every year, and this measure will help ensure those things don’t interfere with our students’ learning process,” Summerhill said.

McLeod said a strong school district benefits everyone in the community.

“The safety of our schools is a priority for everyone, and I think whether people have kids in the district or not, everyone in a community benefits from a good school system by investing in our future and because good schools contributes to strong home values,” he said.

“This adds to the community as well,” added Summerhill. “When schools do well, home values are better and the community as a whole does better. When people choose to move into a community or not, one of the biggest things they look at are the local schools. Even if you don’t have a student in the district, you should care about the state of your local schools.”

McLeod said that while there would be few highly visible uses of the funds, if they are approved, those funds are no less crucial to the district.

“It’s a districtwide levy, so it will affect all our buildings, although not all of our buildings require the same amount of investment to bring them up to standards,” said McLeod. “It’s a lot of money that no one gets very excited about, but that’s very necessary. It’s all about improving the necessities of your school. … People can reach out to our business office if they have any questions. We want to address their concerns and questions.”

The Eastpointe Community Schools business office can be reached at (586) 533-3700.

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