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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.

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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