December 18, 2018

WB-RC details more of its eight-year plan

Hinges on passage of sinking fund millage

Posted

WEST BRANCH — West Branch-Rose City Area Schools has begun circulating a revised information sheet, and business cards and recently taped off areas of the school to be improved if the sinking fund is passed in November.

Superintendent Phil Mikulski said the move was made because taxpayers have asked for additional information regarding the district’s plans.

“We have an eight-year plan,” Mikulski said. “We have identified which of these are security, safety, both and technology.”

The district broke its eight-year plan into four categories, which highlight the areas to be improved including new front entrances at each of the schools with secured vestibules, replacement of heating control systems, asbestos abatement and technology upgrades.

“None of the projects are related to athletics and none are related to the purchase of real estate,” Mikulski said.

One of the recurring line items of the plan is vague in description — technology — but with the passing of the sinking fund, the district will be able to enter into a replacement rotation policy with the technology items, such as Chromebooks, that it has purchased in the past several years.

“Because we have been very aggressive in purchasing student devices (Chromebooks) we need to now get on a rotation of replacement of those Chromebooks,” Mikulski said. “That $50,000 also includes purchase and replacement of instructional devices that our teachers use as well such as smart boards.”

The majority of the projects on the plan are expected to cost less than $100,000 each. However, some projects are in estimated to cost more than $300,000, including redesigned front entrances at all buildings to include secure vestibules, repair and replacement of the parking lot at Ogemaw Heights High School and the replacement of heating control systems at many of the buildings, most of which are original.

The sinking fund millage, which is requesting 0.67 mill for eight years, is estimated to cost a taxpayer with a $200,000 home with a $100,000 taxable value $67 per year. The sinking fund millage also has limitations to what the district can spend the money on, according to what is spelled out in the ballot language and allowed by law. The language stipulates the sinking fund millage would be used for school security improvements, acquisition or upgrade of technology, construction or repair of school buildings and for the purchase of real estate for sites for school buildings.

Mikulski said there was some recent confusion brought to his attention regarding the wording of ballot, specifically the purchase of real estate. In previous statements to the Herald, Mikulski said that portion was required by law. However, he later learned it was not.

“I think it is important to clarify my earlier comments regarding the ballot language, in particular the reference to purchasing real estate,” Mikulski said. “I stated before that the law requires we include the language on the ballot. However, after additional follow-up communications with our attorneys, we were told the law only requires this language to be included if the district intends to purchase real estate in the future with sinking fund dollars.”

Mikulski said the district has maintained the same stance since the beginning discussions of the sinking fund millage, that it would not purchase any real estate with sinking fund money.

“In fact, we have a detailed eight-year plan outlining the projects we intend to complete,” he said. “I want the voters to be assured that the district does not have any intention to purchase real estate with these millage funds. I apologize for any confusion this specific language has created and I hope this clears up any misunderstandings.”

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