With the November 2nd Ballot nearing, Columbia Schools seek funding for updates for advancing technology needs.
By Matt Schepeler
Columbia school officials are hoping district voters will approve a sinking fund proposal this November that would raise $474,124 annually for 10 years. However, they realize that voters might have questions after approving two bond proposals totaling nearly $30.5 million in 2013.
“We are excited at this opportunity because the board did a bond refunding, which is kind of like refinancing your house, so it gives us an opportunity to leverage that savings, basically,” said Columbia School District Superintendent Pamela Campbell.
“We have been levying 2.8 mills from the 2013 bond, and by doing the bond refunding process, it saved us .65 mills, which amounts to $65 per $100,000 home. That is how much it saves. If the community allows us to put that back into the schools, it will allow us to do some projects. (more below)
“If I was a regular taxpayer I would think ‘Didn’t you just get money?’ Yes, but all of the building additions that were built in 2000, all of their roofs have been aged out. This .65 mills would give us money to put back into the buildings. Besides the roofs, HVAC systems need to be updated, and some of the money would be used towards savings for future technology needs,” said Campbell.
“That is the great thing, really,” said Campbell of planning for the future technological needs of the district. “Technology is really the main thing we need to focus on,” she said, noting that the district recently purchased 1,053 chrome books using COVID relief monies. “But they only last four or five years.” She said that the chrome books also need to be upgraded. “After a certain point, they have to be updated,” she said, adding that they need to order 500 more.
“Technology is such a big part of [education], that is how students do their homework, on chrome books. They can access their math books, their science books, all sorts of things online.”
“We also need new smart boards at the lower elementary,” said Campbell. The smart boards in the lower elementary are aging out, and we can’t get parts for them. Our tech people say that in a year or two, they will pretty much be toast. We use those for the i-Ready assessment program. The teachers actually teach off of the smart boards.” (more below)
“Those are the two main things, but there are a few others . . . Options (school) needs a new parking lot,” she added.
Board President Robert Wahr said he dislikes the term “sinking fund,” and noted that it is really more like a savings account.
Wahr agreed with Campbell that being proactive regarding future technology needs is a large part of the request but noted that other facility needs are on the horizon. “We may need to replace our bus barn, which is pretty ancient.”
While the district leases its buses, the bus barn is still used for maintenance duties such as oil changes and tire replacement. It also serves as the home for the maintenance staff.
Wahr also noted that since officials refinanced the 2013 bond, “While the proposal will say ‘increase,’ it is really a net-zero proposal. We are saving on the bond, but if the sinking fund passes, or when it passes, it will keep everybody’s taxes the same.”
“This will allow us to maintain our buildings. You know, the district entrusted us with the $30 million when our buildings really needed it, and we want to keep them up.”
“It is much like when you own a home. You get a 30-year mortgage, but you still need to put maintenance into it. And we really need to highlight the future technology needs. That is not going away.”
The ballot proposal will read:
COLUMBIA SCHOOL DISTRICT SINKING FUND MILLAGE PROPOSAL Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property in Columbia School District, Jackson, Lenawee, Washtenaw, and Hillsdale Counties, Michigan, be increased by and the board of education be authorized to levy not to exceed 0.65 mills ($0.65 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 10 years, 2022 to 2031, inclusive, to create a sinking fund for the construction or repair of school buildings, for school security improvements, for the acquisition or upgrading of technology, and all other purposes authorized by law; the estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2022 is approximately $470,124.