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Schools Millage Proposal Approved for Nov. 6 Ballot

A building and site sinking fund, paid for with a 10-year, 1.0-mill levy, would help make repairs at schools in Royal Oak.

The Nov. 6 election picture in Royal Oak became clearer as ballot language for a building and site sinking fund millage to benefit was approved Thursday.

The 1.0-mill levy ($1 per $1,000 of taxable valuation) will, if approved by voters, take place for a 10-year period from July 2013-23.

Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin said citizens should consider the millage because it is “responsible, reasonable and right.”

“A sinking fund provides a mechanism for meeting capital needs on an ongoing basis, rather than allowing a crisis to develop,” Lewis-Lakin said in his presentation. A recent capital needs assessment identified nearly $20 million in projects, with the largest single item being roof replacements.

At its meeting, the Board of Education voted unanimously for the ballot proposal.

“We’ve talked about this in this district probably as long as I have been on the board,” said School Board President Gary Briggs. “We have had a history in this district of putting off a lot of these improvements in buildings.”

In the past, the district has tried to get away with as much as it could without putting money into buildings, Briggs said. "And then we would hit the taxpayers up every decade with a huge millage.”

The building and site sinking fund millage is a proactive approach that, if passed, will allow the board to set aside funds and do better planning to protect the investments the district has made in its buildings, such as the renovations at , Briggs said.

“It’s not a great time, but I think it is a great idea,” said board member Michael Hartman. “I think it protects property values throughout the city when we have schools that we want to send our kids to. When people tour the city and they see the schools are in good shape, it is something that reflects well on Royal Oak.”

If passed by voters, the building and site sinking fund millage would provide $2.2 million of dedicated revenue annually, costing the average homeowner $27 per year. Funds can only be used to make infrastructure improvements and repairs to the school district’s facilities, and, pursuant to state law, millage proceeds cannot be used for teacher, administrator or employee salaries, maintenance or other operating expenses, Lewis-Lakin said.

“I think they had a good honest dialogue tonight,” said Bill Shaw, a Royal Oak resident who attended the meeting. “I have talked to the superintendent and he has been forthright and bottom-line with the numbers. I like that it is a dedicated millage that can only be used for capital expenditures.” 

Information will be available on the district website, www.royaloakschools.com, Friday morning. Any questions should be directed to Lewis-Lakin at Lewis-Lakins@royaloakschools.com or 248-435-8400, ext. 1228.

JH August 10, 2012 at 12:42 PM
The better the schools, the higher the property values - this one will be far more expensive to vote against than it will be to vote for.
Beverly Hills Royal Oak Sub August 10, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Our schools make such a difference for our community! It's worth the dollars to keep our schools and community strong!
Mark August 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I have a big issue with school of choice. People who are sending their children to our schools should have to pay this tax too. Why should us that live in the district and use it be the ones shouldering the bill.
JH August 10, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I'm by no means an expert on the subject and from what I do know I would say I oppose school of choice, but to answer your question it's those of us in the district who will see their property values drop if we let the schools fall into disrepair. Fair or not, it will cost us less in the long run to pass the millage than it will to let it fail.
JH August 10, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I don't think the article points this out very well but it is shown in the pictures... this is a 1.0 mil increase, but there is a .61 mil decrease in school taxes at the same time - so this would only be an increase of 0.39 mils from current levels. As it points out in the article, that is $27 per year for the average Royal Oak homeowner to keep the schools in good shape & protect our property values.
Chloe August 10, 2012 at 02:54 PM
School of choice.... AYP ... focus schools. Who is paying the bill?. It will be hard to pass this millage. It would be nice to read about outstanding results that may counterbalance the poor performance of the low 30%. What are the AP results at ROHS? merit scholars? How long has the discrepancy been happening in the elementary and middle school? is it really due to school of choice? Those students will be part of ROHS soon.
JH August 10, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Chloe, this is to pay for building repairs.
SoccerMom3 August 10, 2012 at 03:01 PM
People are drawn to well performing schools.
SoccerMom3 August 10, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Why isn't building maintenance part of the schools longterm budget planning? Every other entity has to plan for the future. When I need a new roof, I've planned and saved for it!
JH August 10, 2012 at 03:07 PM
This might be wrong but I've heard it has to be handled as a different fund due to the way the state contributions to the budget work. Are you really a soccermom voting against a small millage to keep the school buildings in shape?
SoccerMom3 August 10, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Yes. No one gets more money from my household unless they prove fiscal responsibility. The school disrtrict hasn't. Imagine going into your employer and asking for a raise because you need a new central air conditioning unit. Your employer would laugh at you, and ask, "why didn't you save for it." I don't fall for the BS, "it's for the children" routine.
JH August 10, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Schools are funded by taxes - this is nothing new! Are you suggesting they have some kind of salary they blew and that's why they need more money? Have you not watched the news or heard that the state has severely cut funding to school districts to balance the state budget? Where do YOU think the money should come from to keep the schools in shape? And again, if we let the schools fall into disrepair, it is our property values which will suffer. You can pay $27 a year for the millage, or you can lose thousands on your home value. Even if you didn't care at all about children, how can you not see that sometimes it's cheaper to pay a little up front (millage) than lose a lot more (decreased property value) later?
SoccerMom3 August 10, 2012 at 03:39 PM
You never answered as to why the schools don't plan for maintenance in their longterm budget planning? Everyone else does, whether you're a business or an individual. Why is a government entity different? It's becuase they can run to the taxpayer and always ask for more. Plan for the future!
JH August 10, 2012 at 03:42 PM
That's because the very premise is flawed - please explain what it means for the school to budget & plan for the future? Here's the situation: the school district recognizes that the buildings need maintenance so they do not fall into disrepair. They plan to conduct this maintenance but they need funding to pay for it, so they ask the taxpayers for funding. That IS planning ahead! Please tell me where else the money is supposed to come from!
SoccerMom3 August 10, 2012 at 04:27 PM
To plan for the future means to set aside money for maintenance that is needed in the future. If a roof only has a 20 year lifespan, then money needs to ne set aside before the roof fails. It doesn't mean that when "scheduled" maintenance is needed, to have the taxpayers pay more. How do you handle scheduled maintenance in your own household? Budgets of this size, generally have a capital improvement fund or savings. Why doesn't the school district? The money for scheduled maintenance should be planned for from their current budget, It's that simple. You don't buy a car, spend all you money, and have no money left in your budget for an oil change. Same premise. I'm done. Have a good weekend.
JH August 10, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Taxes pay for it either way - would you prefer they increase the regular school millage rate instead? If you want to complain about bad budgeting, please find something they've wasted money on rather than complaining about this being requested as a separate millage. Building repairs need to be done and in order to pay for them they either need more tax dollars or they need to divert money away from academic programs. I would personally much rather pay the $27 a year than have the quality of education and my housing value eroded. Before anybody asks, I do not have any children.
Debbie Campbell August 10, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I seem to recall the district saying that they were going to tear down neighborhood elementary schools and sell/develop those properties—The influx of cash from the sales of land was supposed to cover the cost of maintaining the remaining schools…Anyone else remember that discussion?
Mike Ripinski August 10, 2012 at 06:44 PM
@ Debbie - Wow! We actually agree on something. If the district is still hanging on to any of its properties, now is the time to sell. Values are going back up. They have assests to be sold that can pay for their needs.
David Kies August 10, 2012 at 07:50 PM
In the past few years, we have seen our schools downsized by closing locations, selling property, etc., but we see a multi million dollar football stadium for a team that hasn't won a handfull of games. Get with it people, we need school board members and a superintendant that that can make wise decisions...NOT citizens that give in to every request for financing..
JH August 10, 2012 at 07:54 PM
How does letting the roofs leak fix the school board & superintendent issues? Vote for different school board members if you're not happy with them, but don't let the school buildings fall into disrepair - it will only cost tax payers MORE in the long run if this millage fails.
Jaspermonty August 10, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I'm bummed that either the school mileage or the public safety mileage wasn't on the August ballot. Hopefully this won't deter people from investing in their community.
David Kies August 10, 2012 at 08:23 PM
JH, they should have thought about the future of the buildings when they put millions into artificial turf. I never had that when I went to school, and we did just fine. Just think of all the maintenance repairs they could have funded with a regular field.
David Kies August 10, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I totally agree with you. I'll vote yes on the millages, but I really think that the school board has to investigate every possible means of funding the repairs, BEFORe they come to us for money. I love the city I live in, but I don't like the way that funds are being spent. At my place of employment, we investigate every cost saving measure to make sure that our properties are maintained, and updated without going over budget or searching for additional funds.
Mike Ripinski August 10, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Correction - I have been informed that in fact the district does NOT have unsold or uncommitted properties that would bring in significant revenue to pay for the necessary building renovations. Current pending deals are already earmarked for projects commited to back in 2005. Unfortunately there is no other option for the district to mainatin the facilities. As Mr Hartman said "it is not a great time...." but it is necessary. And the net impact will be only a fraction of the actual One Mill tax.
Rick Karlowski August 12, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Every time a new tax comes up, it is the same response - pass it or your property values will go down. There is absolutely NO correlation to tax rate and school performance. Other schools seems to be able to cover maintenance costs out of the operation revenue. Royal Oak schools just closed a large number of buildings, and that, we where told, would lower the operating costs and the sale of the property cover the upgrades to the other buildings and pay down the bond also recently approved. This is just a way to prevent the need to take on the teachers union to bring pay and benefits in line with economic reality.
Debbie Campbell August 12, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Royal Oak Schools has a budget of roughly $53 million to educate 5,100 students and maintain 8 buildings.

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