On August 7, 2012, voters residing in the Holly Area School District will be asked whether to approve a 1.2 mill sinking fund to provide revenue for regular maintenance to the school district facilities over a 10 year period.
In the past several years, the nation, state and especially our local community have been hit hard by a recession and stagnant economy that has forced many residents to move, and many more to tighten up their budgets and belt straps. No one likes their taxes increased, especially in this economic climate.
The sinking fund millage, however, is one expense that the Holly community needs to find a way to fund.
Usually, when taxes and tax increases are proposed, the arguments against them center around whether the “government” needs that money, what it will be used for, and if it will be used efficiently (or in other words, can other money be found to pay for it through cuts or changes). A common refrain is that, “regular Joes have had to tighten their budgets with less income, so the government (or schools) should too.”
That’s a very valid argument, except that after years of increasingly painful budget cuts, there’s not much more to cut that won’t drastically affect the high quality of education in Holly Area Schools. Staff has been downsized to nearly the bottom limit; faculty has been reduced at the cost of larger class sizes and loss of programs. The schools have become as lean and green as possible.
Schools can’t just go out and find other sources of revenue—they are at the mercy of the aloof State Legislature on foundation allowance funding and cannot propose millages for operating expenses due to Proposal A. Their only options for additional revenue are capital fund millages (for new buildings or facilities, for example) or sinking funds for maintenance to physical plants.
If Holly’s sinking fund millage doesn’t pass, the Holly Area Schools will need to find revenue for those necessary repairs to roofs, parking lots, safe and engaging playground equipment, heating and air conditioning somewhere else. The schools can’t just let those things go. And without the sinking fund, then those funds will likely need to come from the money that funds our academic programs.
A leaky roof makes learning difficult. A leaky roof repaired by having to cut programs or lay off teachers makes learning impossible.
Moreover, the Holly community should have the utmost faith and trust in the Board of Education and Superintendent Kent Barnes when they tell us that this sinking fund is necessary. Mr. Barnes has spent the past several months bombarding the community with facts—not sales pitches, not marketing, not spin, but facts. He’s answered both legitimate questions as well as addressed his favorite cliché of “rumors, gossip and innuendo.”
Moreover, the sinking fund proposal doesn’t even cover half of the anticipated expenses that the school district needs—only the most critical and important, a sign of both understanding of the districts shareholders as well as frugal management.
Despite those increasing budget cuts, Holly has been able to maintain itself as one of the top school districts in the county. Our test scores are on par with some of the more affluent districts, which is more significant when you consider that the socio-economic demographics of the Holly community are far lower than areas like Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham (far more than 50% of our children qualify for free or reduced lunch due to their relationship with poverty guidelines, which is a universally accepted indicator of potential academic challenges and achievement). Property values and student head counts have plummeted, yet our students remain at a top level.
Holly Area Schools is our community’s crown jewel—our largest employer, the Village’s largest water customer, and the exemplar of an organization that still achieves despite tough challenges. As members of the Holly community, it rests on us all, whether we have children in the schools or not, to ensure that this institution and resource continues to be a strong block in Holly’s foundation.
Vote yes and approve the Holly Area Schools sinking fund millage proposal on August 7.