By Meg Peters
Lake Orion Community Schools has one enthusiastic man behind the Citizen’s Committee who is rallying in favor of the 2016 sinking fund ballot election.
Nate Butki, LOCS class of ’92, said it’s time the community takes action and supports the two mill sinking fund ballot proposal on August 2.
Butki kicked off the first meeting of the Citizen’s Committee last week after inviting over 100 community members to jump on board to get the word out.
Volunteers formed committees around communication, signs, absentee voters, door-to-door, outreach, social media, election day, and the celebration after the election.
Butki said the win should be simple.
“I think it’s an easy decision. I think there aren’t many barriers to it apart from communicating frequently, clearly and helping people understand what it is and what it isn’t, and understand that it’s a real need,” he said. “This isn’t just to have nice stuff.”
The two mill sinking fund would raise about $3.5 million a year for ten years to address the district’s facility and technology needs. For a $200,000 market value home, that’s about a $200 increases in property taxes.
Of the 28 districts in Oakland County, 12 public school systems utilize sinking funds.
After Proposal A was passed in Michigan in 1994, the state took control of each public school district’s operating fund, but left the districts in charge of maintaining their school buildings.
“The state expects districts to use local tax levies like buildings and site sinking funds and bond millages to address their facility needs,” Superintendent Marion Ginopolis said.
A sinking fund is not like a bond, where the district borrows money and pays it back with additional interest fees over a set amount of time. A sinking fund is a tax levied annually.
“The sinking fund is a much better deal,” Butki said. “It’s a much better value because you’re not actually borrowing the money, you’re collecting the tax and spending it each year and avoiding fees and overhead, so it’s absolutely the most efficient way.”
The research began when Butki led the district’s Long Range Planning Committee as chairman from May 2015 to December 2015. The Long Range Planning Committee formed to give the district short term and long term recommendations confronting the main dilemma.
“We have a real problem. We don’t have enough money in the district and that is based on the fact that we have more students graduating than coming in. And at the same time, the State has cut our per-pupil funding by over $400,” he said.
His research with the LRPC made one thing clear for Butki.
“It was really clear the administration and board are doing a great job to tackle the problem looking at the short term and long term solutions. Our staff and students are doing their part, we’re top of the county, top of the state,” he said. “But the community hasn’t been doing its part, you look at the buildings and you look at the list of repairs, and we’re left with two choices.”
Either the district takes money from the instruction in order to do them, “or you scrape by, you don’t do them, or you do them with patches and bandaids rather than fixing things,” he said.
So Butki stepped up as chairman for the Citizen’s Committee, which met for the second time Tuesday at Friendship Park.
“We need as many volunteers as we can get. If you want to know how to help, and you’re interested than jump on these teams,” he said.
Each team—communications, signs, absentee voters, door to door outreach, social media and election day and a celebration—will have a leader, and a timeline of actions and events that must be done before election day.
Contact Butki at email@example.com to get started.
The district has over $40 million in building projects that have been put on hold over the past decade, and the list of repairs is long.
Boiler and chiller replacement, roof repairs, parking lot and sidewalk repairs, restroom upgrades, carpeting and floor tile replacement are some general examples of the projects scheduled over the next ten years.
Each school has its own list. For example, Blanche Sims is qualified for security projects, site traffic/handicap accessibility improvements, HVAC replacement of boilers, chillers, air handlers, energy management controls, roofing, paving/concrete, flooring, windows, restroom renovations, water service line, retention ponds, and new network infrastructure.
Lake Orion High School has its own list too, including new doors, HVAC systems, roofing, paving/concrete, bleacher enhancements, auditorium seating, artificial turf replacement, flooring, running tracks, tennis courts, pool controls, fencing, field improvements, drainage system improvements, sound system improvements, and improved network infrastructure.
Butki’s wife, Missi Butki, is the district’s Math Consultant/Coach, and one of the reasons Butki got involved with the committee. The Butki’s have two children attending Orion Oaks Elementary and Scripss Middle School.
“I don’t think people recognize that that the need is real,” he said. “We own these buildings, these are our assets, and the better conditions the buildings are in, the better our teachers and students can perform. And the better our schools perform, the more our home values go up. So even if you don’t care about education there’s something in it for you that says we have to do this.”
By Meg Peters