Creating a solid foundation for district operations: the sinking fund

Skyline's new turf field, installed this summer with money from the sinking fund.
Skyline’s new turf field, installed this summer with money from the sinking fund.

Sept. 27, 2013

By Tara Cavanaugh

Sometimes, the least glamorous tasks in life are really important ones. Like changing a baby’s dirty diaper, for instance.

On Nov. 5, the community will vote on the sinking fund millage. The sinking fund is money used to pay for facility updates and repairs –– in other words, the generally unglamorous but rather important things –– for AAPS buildings.

The sinking fund is a separate pot of money that is not a part of the district’s general fund. By state law, it can only be used for repairs, upgrades and replacements to buildings and property. So think of the big stuff, such as paving parking lots, building walls, or constructing a handicap ramp.

It’s important to know that the sinking fund cannot be used for teacher salaries, administrator salaries or employee salaries. It also cannot be used to purchase permanent, or disposable items, such as office supplies, a fan belt, or a filter.

It’s also important to know that this millage will not increase your tax rate over what you are currently paying for the sinking fund. The Nov. 5 millage is a renewal of the 2008 millage, in which voters approved a tax of 1 mil for the fund.

What does a 1 mil tax rate mean? It’s a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of a home’s taxable value which is roughly half of its market value. So a homeowner with a $150,000 home would pay $75 toward the sinking fund.

The sinking fund will provide $7.4 million each year for the district to make upgrades and repairs. But the district has more than $7.4 million in needs, said Tim Gruszczynski, AAPS executive director of physical properties. “If we were to spend more money, we’d be doing more work, and it would be difficult to get the amount of work done without impacting classroom scheduling.” Most of the work takes place during the summer when school buildings are unoccupied.

To understand what kind of projects the next sinking fund would support, it’s helpful to look at the projects it’s already funded. Here are some examples:

New LED or florescent light fixtures in all exterior lights

This means that the lights in the parking lots and the lights on the outside of all district buildings are energy efficient. This will help the district spend less on energy costs –– which are paid for from the district’s general fund.

Replacing metal exterior doors with fiberglass doors

Old metal corroded doors were replaced with fiberglass reinforced doors at Forsythe, Wines, Scarlett, Clague, Mitchell, Abbot and King this summer. Another dozen schools will get new doors during this school year, Gruszczynski said. “These new doors don’t rust or corrode. That’s less maintenance for us.”

Installing a synthetic turf field at Skyline

A synthetic turf field is a safer playing surface that is also cheaper to maintain. The district does not have to pay to cut grass, fertilize or to repaint lines. Skyline now has a main playing field and a practice field, just like Pioneer and Huron high schools.

The Nov. 5 vote would secure the sinking fund for the 2015/2016 fiscal year until the 2019/2020 fiscal year. The district asks voters to approve the fund years in advance in order to plan for classroom needs.

If this millage were not approved, the district’s general fund would likely be affected. The district would have to look for another source of funding, such as the general fund to make necessary upgrades and repairs to buildings. The general fund supports the vast majority of district operations and has a direct impact on teachers, class sizes, academics, arts, athletics and much, much more. The general fund has already lost $43 million in state funding in the past five years (including the 2013/2014 school year).

The district will hold community meetings about the sinking fund; dates and locations will be announced soon. The AAPS News will also continue updating its Sinking Fund Series.

More on the Sinking Fund:

Sinking Fund FAQ

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1 Comment

  1. This was a helpful, easy to read article. I can’t imagine anyone voting no on this, but nonetheless SPREAD THIS INFORMATION so people know the facts. Support our children!

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