Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ann Arbor & Saline: Vote on Tuesday!

If you're like me, the first reminder that there is an election on Tuesday came in a school email that reminded me that there is no school (at least in Ann Arbor) on Tuesday. Many
of the schools are also voting sites.

I think I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that there are some school-related items to vote on (plus some other items, including, in Ann Arbor, city council...)

Taken from

Saline: Non-homestead Millage Renewal. Find out more here (Saline Schools), and here (Saline Post). If this is not renewed there will be a nearly 16% cut in school funds.

Ann Arbor: Sinking Fund. Find out more here (Ann Arbor schools), and here (Ann Arbor News).

Sinking Fund Discussion

Sinking fund monies pay for infrastructure. I asked Liz Margolis for a complete list of what the sinking fund monies were spent on in the past few years, and was told it would be posted on the schools web site last week, but I don't see it.

The arguments that I have heard for the sinking fund:

  • Schools need every penny they can get. Money keeps getting cut from schools.
  • Sinking fund monies get spent on things that need to happen anyway (for example, replacing a roof or a furnace) and if the sinking fund isn't supported by the voters then that money will have to come out of operating funds--which is the area that has been hit hardest by state cuts. So by supporting the sinking fund you effectively allow more money for expenses like teachers and you protect the classroom.
The arguments that I have heard against renewing the sinking fund: 
  • People are tired of funding "things" around the school (e.g., technology, furnaces). One would prefer to fund personnel, photocopies, etc.
  • The school board is going to use the money for things people don't agree with--an example being spending current sinking fund monies on video monitors at school doors.
On the "con" side, as far as the first point goes, let's just be clear--the school board is not allowed to put forward a millage for us to vote on that would support general operating costs, such as personnel. If they could, they would. (Why? Proposal A. Look for a post about that sometime soon. Maybe even this week.)

As far as the second point goes, I personally feel this is a valid point. It is the same issue, by the way, that came up last year with the technology bond. In thinking about the technology bond, here was the issue: Yes, teachers and kids needed new computers; the schools needed updated technology infrastructure; and in an ideal world it would be paid for from operating costs (as ongoing expenses) but as far as school finance goes, we are living in a much less than ideal world. 

On the other hand, by providing those new computers we were making it easier for the district to administer standardized tests which I personally don't support. So even though I did end up voting for the tech bond, I am sometimes sorry that I did.

I wish I had the list of things that the sinking fund has been used for in the past, but I think it's safe to say that for the sinking fund, the majority of expenditures will be a) legitimate; b) necessary; and c) things that most of us would approve of doing. 

Some expenditures, however, will likely be on items about which we disagree. The proposed security measures are one example of this

And in a related blog post, you can both read about the added Haisley playground accessibility features (funded by the sinking fund) and--in the comments--some discussion of one person's negative perspective on the sinking fund. I think that essentially shows both sides of the story. 

If you own a house--which I do--and actually, you probably know this even if you live in a leased dwelling--you know that houses and buildings need "refreshing" periodically to run well. But whether a family "refreshes" by making do with some patched-up fix-it job, or getting the low-budget minimum-necessary item, or choosing the high-end marble finish, depends on a mixture of budget and perspective. In the schools, that perspective includes how much heavy use something will get (will kids be jumping on it every day?) and how long you want that something to last. (As an example, we have some very old boilers in the school district, and some of them are still working, and working well. But every time they break, then there are some decisions that need to be made.)

So in the end, I think, it comes down to whether you trust the school board and the administration. Because ultimately they are going to be the ones deciding on the expenditures that will be paid for out of the sinking fund. If you trust them, you will probably want to support the sinking fund. And if you don't, then you might not. But if you don't, then maybe we've got bigger problems.

1 comment:

  1. Ruth,
    Although I work for the school board, I do not trust them to spend money wisely.