A proposal for a larger Van Buren Public Schools Sinking Fund than the one that has expired will be put on the Nov. 8 ballot, but the school board still[…]

A proposal for a larger Van Buren Public Schools Sinking Fund than the one that has expired will be put on the Nov. 8 ballot, but the school board still has to decide how much that will be.
The expiring Sinking Fund, which was approved in the November 2015 election, was set at 0.5 mill and was reduced to the present 0.4870 mill by the Headlee Amendment. This generates about $873,000 per year.
The law allows a 10-year maximum for the Sinking Fund and so that is what is being proposed, said Rob Kakoczki of Plante Moran Cresa who explained the details at Monday’s regular meeting of the board of education.
Kakoczki said a committee had looked at all the district facilities and determined what maintenance they would need over the next 10 years. The law allows for the Sinking Fund to be used for maintenance, school security improvements, and instructional technology.
He said the committee came up with a list of needs that totaled $53.5 million over 10 years and a 5-mill levy would bring in a total of $54 million.
Van Buren Public Schools’ current debt millage is 3.46, which incorporates the bond millage of 2.98 and the Sinking Fund of 0.48.
Kakocski presented a chart of 34 area school districts that showed Van Buren fifth from the bottom of the millage totals. Airport Community Schools have the least amount of millage paid by taxpayers at 2.85. Ecorse Public Schools have a total of 16 mills.
Board president Amy Pearce said she liked 1.5 mill, which would be $150 per year for a home valued at $200,000, ($12.50 per month) according to the chart. Board member Calvin Hawkins and secretary Darlene Gerick agreed.
“Costs are going up and we have to be realistic,” president Pearce said. “We want to be fair to the community.” She said by having a Sinking Fund for maintenance it would free up money in the budget for classrooms.
Vice president Susan Featheringill said the Sinking Fund money pays for technology and maintenance. She said having tablets for students is costly and it doesn’t have to come out of the education budget.
Trustee Falconer said it also pays for security, “but not humans?”
School Supt. Pete Kudlak said it would pay for more cameras and other devices, but “not humans.” He said they are working on getting a grant for another school resource officer and also putting lights and cameras in place.
Kakoczki said if the question doesn’t pass on the Nov. 8 ballot, they can go back again in May and ask again.
Treasurer Simone Pinter said if everything is so ridiculously high now, it’s sure to go up and, “We’ll be locked in for 10 years.” She suggested going for 2 mills, which the chart said would be $16.67 per month for a home with a market value of $200,000. “Everything tripled in the last two years,” she said, referring to construction materials. “If it tripled again?”
Supt. Kudlak said they could go back to the voters if that happened.
Pearce said she doesn’t want a situation like that.
Kudlak said the first Sinking Fund question was for 1.13 mill and it didn’t pass, so they dropped it to 0.5.
“It’s important to explain to the voters,” Pearce said. “We need to focus on community education.”
Kudlak said the maximum under the law is 3 mills for 10 years.
He said he would like the board to come up with final numbers because the festival season is coming and he wants to take the numbers to the people.
“The market isn’t going to be this crazy forever,” treasurer Pinter said. “It’s going to crash and crash hard.”
Kudlak asked board members to take this information out to their constituents and come back and discuss it at the next meeting and decide. Then they can vote on it at the following meeting in June.
In other business at Monday’s two-hour meeting, the board:
• Approved Schools of Choice 2022-23 fall dates for unlimited seats in all classes. Kudlak said the district does not welcome new students who have been suspended in the last two years or have ever been expelled;
• Heard building presentations from Tyler Elementary School, the Early Child Development Center, and Edgemont Elementary School;
• Heard a presentation from the two Instructional Support Services employees, Tiffany Apostolokis (K-6) and Renea Kurek (7-12). The positions were created this year to assist the Office of Instruction in matters relating to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and school improvement;
• Approved the Belleville High School Cross Country Field Trip, July 25-28, at a South-Central Michigan campground to be determined;
• Approved the hiring of Spanish teacher Carina McGraw for Belleville High School beginning April 25;
• Approved the retirement of Patricia McInchak, a GSRP parapro, after 24 years of service, as of June 30;
• Approved the hiring of Amanda Seng as a bus driver as of May 3 and Shaton Campbell as a bus aide as of April 27;
• Heard a presentation from a Van Buren Public Schools’ district resident with an eight year old in the system and a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan that has started a business that trains and places substitute teachers. She said she would like to do a formal presentation to the board. Kudlak said he would have a conversation with her;
• Heard Director of Plant Operations James Williams report construction work is under way at Owen Intermediate in Area 1. Pearce asked about progress on the McBride Clinic and Williams said it is going through the state for licensing. Kudlak said they plan a September start;
• Heard Human Resources Director Abdul Madyun report that he is negotiating with the food service unit. He said the $2 raise they were given raised their pay to $13 an hour, which is not enough. In another matter, he said they decided to do something for the staff and so they are providing an event with food trucks going to each school. He said the union chipped in;
• Heard BHS student Natalia Payne report that Monday was yearbook distribution day, Senior Recognition is at 6:30 p.m. May 11, the senior final walk is May 19 for second and third hour, the prom is in Livonia on May 20 and senior graduation is at 7 p.m. May 26 at Eastern Michigan University; and
• Heard Kudlak say COVID numbers are going up in the school and the community. He is making no changes in rules, but he may have to re-mask buildings that are on the rise.

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