By Patrick Mullen
Meridian Times staff writer
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP—No one enjoys the mention of taxes at a school board meeting, but it seemed to be a necessity to the Haslett Board of Education this past week.
The second meeting of the new year Superintendent Mike Duda brought up the struggling financial support for the schools.
“The reality is that the only way that we can raise funds is through the use of sinking funds,” Duda said. “Essentially what we are talking about here is a tax raise.”
A sinking fund is a common source of income for public schools, according to board members at the meeting. In most cases, the fund collects money over time and can help reduce debt through loans.
The Haslett School District currently has a sinking fund put in place during the 2009-10 school year. Now in its fourth year, the sinking fund is on pace to make about $4.5 million during the 10 years, and the estimated need for renovations is $10 million.
Steve Cook, Haslett finance director, mentioned the economy as a main reason for the proposed tax raises.
“We were anticipating a growth since our bond issues in 2001”, Cook said. “Unfortunately, we had the crash in 2008 where property values tanked and we actually had a negative growth rate.”
Cook appeared confident this needed to keep Haslett schools as up to date as possible.
“There are some differences of opinions on when this has to be instituted. Originally we thought it was going to be in 2013,” Cook said.
Now, it does not seem likely to be instituted so soon, Cook said.
If a new sinking fund was inserted, it would overlap with the current sinking fund until 2019-20. When that time comes, the Haslett Board of Education must decide to renew the original fund or stay with the remaining years of the more recent one
If the two work in unison, the estimated $10 million needed for repairs and renovations would be accomplished — $4.5 million from the original sinking fund and about $5.2 million from the proposed sinking fund. The question becomes whether the $10 million is a necessity or not.
Tax increase is estimated to be about $100 on top of the current $78 the Haslett property owners pay per year. Don Frank, president of the Haslett Board of Education, understands this is a large increase compared to the original price.
“My personal feeling is we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves,” Frank said. “We should have the finance facilities committee take a hard look at it and look back at it next board meeting.”
Frank said he understands keeping the schools as up to date as possible is, but pleasing the community matters more.
“We have needs in search of dollars, not dollars in search of projects,” Frank said. “I think it’s absolutely essential that the community has the confidence that we’ve done that.”