Operations director shows how a sinking fund would benefit aging schools

Operations director shows how a sinking fund would benefit aging schools

By Meg Peters
Review Co-Editor
From the outside, many of the buildings owned by Lake Orion Schools appear solid, and in good condition.
A quick tour of the buildings’ innards, however, may paint a different picture.
According to Director of Operations Wes Goodman, there is more to them that meets the eye.
“When do you say we need to replace rather than making repairs?” he said.
The district has nearly $40 million in needed facility improvement projects, with much of the facility’s equipment reaching its recommended life cycles.
That’s where the 2016 Building and Site Sinking Fund Ballot Proposal comes to play.
The 2 mill sinking fund would generate about $3.5 million a year for ten years, and help fund the most important pieces for maintaining and operating the 16 facilities in the district, Goodman said.
“This will certainly help, but there are more needs then what we are asking for,” he said.
The sinking fund is a limited property tax to help fund major repairs in the district, including renovations and equipment replacement, and acts as a pay-as-you-go financing tool.
For a homeowner with a home with a market value of $200,000, the sinking fund would add $200 to his or her property taxes yearly.
Proponents are asking voters to vote in favor of the district’s sinking fund August 2 during the primary election.
Goodman, and other proponents, say one of the most common misconceptions is that the district should use its own general fund to make the repairs and replacements.
“The general fund is to hire and pay teachers, our core business, and the community, although it’s not really well communicated from the State, but we are really supposed to help take care of the big needs and the assets. That’s why we have the ability to go to a sinking fund,” he said.
The sinking fund schedule would prioritize the most critical projects at the beginning of the ten-year timeline, and work in other projects as their associated life cycles terminate.
A complete list of the scheduled projects can be found on the district website at www.lakeorion.k12.mi.us.
The projects have been determined according to service records and other data, Goodman said, but for some of the items it makes more sense to replace them than to continue with repairs.
For example
The heating and cooling system at Lake Orion High School is the original system, and installed in 1996 when the school was first built.
The lead boiler is currently torn down because it needs $20,000 worth of repairs.
“The cost to repair it is almost two-thirds the cost of just replacing it with brand new. Plus when you get brand new, you get all the controls and the most efficient system to save on utilities,” Goodman said.
A typical life span on a boiler is about 20 years, and is up this year, and a new boiler would cost about $30,000.
Goodman also said many of the control systems that maintain the schools’ temperatures in every classroom use software that is now obsolete.
“It’s like a computer. You’re trying to put new parts on old equipment—it doesn’t work.”
If the controls fail, each operating system must be run by hand, which is nearly impossible.
“Once you lose communication, then things will just run 24-7. That’s a big part of the sinking fund, that we don’t get ourselves into a pickle to where we can’t run a building.”
There are over 50 boilers in the district with their separate controls, all different shapes, sizes, and life spans, but boilers aren’t the schools’ only issues.
Many of the roofs are 20 years or older in buildings throughout the district. The same goes for the carpet, and concrete that has yet to be replaced outside of the schools.
With age come leaks, holes, irremovable stains, crumbling thoroughfare which is a safety issue, and overall lackluster.
Not to mention a big cost.
“There is approximately 2 million sq. feet of concrete and asphalt in the district. Even if you spent a dollar per square foot, which isn’t realistic, that would be $2 million just in that area. That’s just one. And a roof is the same thing. Our district has 1.5 million sq. feet of roofs, so if we spent a dollar for every sq. foot in the district that’s $1.5 million, so $3.5 million a year doesn’t go very far when we have all these needs,” Goodman said.
The near 400,000 sq. foot rubber roof at the high school has been repaired so many times kids could play hopscotch on the patches.
But these are only the beginnings of the problems, Goodman indicated.
The restrooms are deteriorating, roofs are leaking, windows are failing, security systems are non-functioning, doors are breaking, and the network infrastructure is outdated.
Every facility in the district, 16 altogether with 12 operating as instructional facilities, would see repairs to the following: boilers, chillers, air handlers, energy management controls, lighting, electrical improvements, roofing, parking lot paving/concrete, network connectivity infrastructure, and qualifying security projects.
Individual facilities will also receive their own special projects according to their age, wear and tear.
Blanche Sims, for example, was built in 1949, and needs some of the most repairs, including handicap accessibility improvements, flooring, windows, restroom renovations, water service line and retention pond maintenance and improvements.
The CERC building, which was built in 1957, needs foundation repairs and chimney demolition.
Funds generated from the sinking fund cannot be used to pay salaries and benefits, purchase buses, used for operating expenses, or to purchase loose equipment and furnishings.
Absentee voter applications can be requested from the Orion Township Clerk’s office by calling 248-391-0304, or can be found online at www.oriontownship.org. Contact the Clerk’s office to have your name added to the mailing list.