Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden appeared before Saline City Council to speak about two local proposals on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Voters will decide the fate of a 10-year, 0.35-mill sinking fund tax and a 10-year, 0.50-mill CARES levy. Both millages would begin in 2018 and run through 2027. Although not technically renewals, taxpayers in the district have been paying both since 2009. It’s not considered a renewal because, over time, the millages have decreased slightly due to the Headlee amendment. The proposals would reset the millages to their original rates. Combining the two taxes, the annual millage rate would increase from 0.8406 to 0.85 – or about $1 on a home with a taxable value of $100,000.
Graden said he sees the CARES millage and sinking fund millage as one of three legs on a three-legged stool holding up the district.
“We’ve got the general fund that pays for our daily operations. We have the bond fund to pay for our larger scale issues. The sinking fund and CARES funds pay for our ongoing maintenance needs, security costs, recreation and they improve the quality of life in our community,” Graden told council.
The sinking fund millage, traditionally, has been used for bricks-and-mortar building repair. It can also be spent to purchase real estate and construction.
A 0.35-mill levy will generate about $582,500 in its first year. One of the advantages to the sinking fund, Graden said, is that you “pay as you go.” As tax money comes in it’s spent on building projects.
Two years ago, the state loosened restrictions on sinking fund millages so districts can use the funds on school security and technology. Saline, a district investing heavily in technology, likes the pay-as-you go model for purchasing technology. Using bond dollars for technology that may be obsolete in 10 years is not optimal for a school district paying off the bond over 20 years.
Graden told council the board will also use sinking fund dollars for school security. Bond dollars were used to reconfigure entrances to the buildings over the last two years. Graden said sinking fund dollars can be used for security cameras. He said the district is considering facial recognition software at its pre-school program at Liberty School.
The other millage is known as the CARES millage – even though on the ballot it’s called a millage to provide funds to operate a system of public recreation and playgrounds. CARES stands for Cultural Arts, Recreation, Enrichment and Senior Citizens.
Graden called it an important investment for the community.
The purpose of the millage, which will race $832,000 in the first year, is to provide funding for recreation programs and facilities that enhance the life of residents within the Saline Area School District community.
“It’s a differentiator. It allows us to do things in this community that other communities can’t do,” Graden said.
The purpose of the millage, which will race $832,000 in the first year, is to provide funding for recreation programs and facilities that enhance the life of residents within the Saline Area School District community. About a quarter of the money goes to the Saline Area Senior Center and makes up 60 percent of its budget. Another quarter of the money goes to operate the community pool at Saline High School. General recreation and community education programs receive another quarter of the fund. Almost 20 percent of the fund is spent in support of operating the Ellen A. Ewing Performing Arts Center at the high school.
About eight percent of the fund goes to CARES grants which have supported many community initiatives, including Movie in the Park, the 5th Corner Teen Center, Henne Field improvements, Rec Center improvements, SAYB&S field improvements, SASA fields and more.
Mayor Brian Marl thanked Graden for his presentation on the important issue. No one from council had questions for Graden.
For more information, see the presentation attached below.