Making second attempt

Gwinn board OKs new sinking fund request

Sandy Petrovich

GWINN — The Gwinn Area Community Schools Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved wording of a sinking fund millage request on the Aug. 6 ballot.

In the May 7 special election, a sinking fund millage request for the district was defeated by voters there with a count of 686 to 507.

The school district was seeking a building-and-site sinking fund at 1.75 mills for 10 years, 2019 to 2028, inclusive, which is $1.75 on each $1,000 of taxable property value.

That is the same request the district wants on the August ballot.

“The need is still there,” GACS Superintendent Sandy Petrovich said.

The sinking fund would be used for the construction or repair of school buildings, school security improvements, the acquisition or upgrading of technology, the purchase of real estate for sites and all other purposes authorized by law.

It’s estimated the school district would collect revenue of $509,673 if the millage is approved and levied this year.

The millage proposal was to be submitted to the Marquette County Clerk’s Office.

The school district has been recovering from a $406,000 deficit since June 2017, holding down costs with cautious spending. However, once the district is out of deficit, it must restore its fund balance to at least 5 percent of its annual operating budget, which is about $550,000.

The district expects to end June with an $87,000 deficit.

Petrovich noted voter turnout in the May 7 election was only 15.2 percent.

“I would like to see a bigger turnout,” Petrovich said.

She pointed out an August election would be of no cost to the district because a county millage renewal also is expected to be on the ballot.

Petrovich addressed the fact the vote failed by only 16 percent. However, she believes the district must look at ways to convince voters to pass the millage request the next time around.

One way would be upgrading its list of projects with reasons or explanations for them, and providing education and information to the public, she said.

“The average layperson out there may not understand why the sound-proofing needs to be redone in the gym,” Petrovich said.

Appealing to certain demographic segments is another idea she addressed.

“I also believe that our vote turnout did not even begin to represent the number of parents and guardians that we have in this district,” Petrovich said. “We need to get our parents and our guardians out to vote.”

Forming a citizens action committee to help the cause and plant signs in yards is another means to help the district’s cause, she said.

“We have to do this,” board Trustee Brian Heath said. “There’s nothing else to do but this.”

Board President Ashley Jenema also expressed her support of another millage request.

“We do have a lot of urgent needs within the district,” Jenema said.

This list of needs is long, she said — and that’s spread over 10 years without any unforeseen issues with the district’s facilities.

Forsyth Township Supervisor Joe Boogren was in the audience to lend his support of the sinking fund.

“As a municipality, we understand the symbiotic relationship between the township and your other constituent townships as well, but particularly from us and to you since all the schools reside in Forsyth Township,” Boogren said. “It has such a huge impact on us.”

He believes the school district lost the retired military and elderly votes, and on a personal level, promised to be “very adamant and very vocal” to urge people to vote for the millage in August.

Petrovich cautioned against what could happen should another millage request fail.

“There aren’t enough funds for it all,” she told the board, “and if this would fail again, then we are seriously going to have to look at where the priorities are, and then we may start to impact student instruction, and I know you are not in collective favor of that at all.”