Munising sinking fund millage fails by 2 votes

The Mather Elementary School, a 103-year-old building, is pictured. (Photo courtesy of Munising Public Schools)

MUNISING — The sinking fund millage proposal for Munising Public Schools was defeated by a slim margin of two votes.

According to an online post on Facebook from MPS, the proposal failed 486-484.

MPS’ request was for 1.5 mills for 10 years ($1.50 on each $1,000 of taxable valuable) for a period of 10 years, 2024 to 2033, inclusive, to create a sinking fund for multiple purposes, including construction, building repairs, technology upgrades, acquisition of vehicles, among other items. This request failed once last May with a higher millage request.

A mill is a tax rate defined as the dollars assessed for each $1,000 of value; one mill is one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.

Had it passed, the millage would have cost about $9.38 per month, or about 31 cents per day, for a property owner with a property value of $150,000. The estimated revenue collected by the school district would have been approximately $342,514, according to the ballot language.

These funds would have been used to address safety, security and structural concerns at Mather Elementary and the Munising Middle/High School, including degrading brickwork, aging school buses, underground drainage leaks in the library, a crumbling chimney and more.

“It’s not just the library that the leaking is occurring,” said Superintendent Mike Travis, “but also we have adjacent storage rooms. It’s affecting the entire building, really, and the entire district.”

The library’s physical space is owned by the district but also functions as a community library. Since the leak is occurring on school property, not city property, the city of Munising is unable to financially assist MPS.

In terms of other sources of monetary relief, Travis said his district has never utilized a sinking fund before, unlike other nearby districts.

“And our current tax rate is much lower than surrounding districts,” he added. “Even with an increase for this millage, we still would only be in the middle of the cohort group for the entire region, so it’s not an exorbitant ask.”

Travis acknowledged the hesitation behind voter support due to other tax increases, high inflation and lack of affordable housing in the area.

He also attributed some no votes may be due to a feeling of disconnection to the school district — some voters reside in outlying areas still included in the district or their lack of children or grandchildren in the school system.

Regardless, the superintendent said he aims to keep the vitality of Munising Public Schools alive by keeping both the Mather Elementary building and middle/high school up and running.

“Mather Elementary, which has some significant structural issues that need to be addressed, is 103 years old, and the community has in past campaigns and in past funding efforts in the district, they’ve said, ‘We love Mather and we don’t want Mather sold or turned into affordable housing, we want it to be a school,'” Travis said. “So really the challenge for the community is that if the community wants that old building to continue to be a school, then some of the issues have to be addressed. That can’t be kicked down the road for much longer.”

Helping schools helps the surrounding community, Travis said. For any concerned or interested voters in the area, he recommended taking a look at the Sinking Fund 2024 page on the MPS website. Located there is a tax calculator, tax credit information and resources on the 2023 Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit program that helps Michiganders during tax increases.

Travis and the Munising board are currently deciding on their plan moving forward and are considering when is a good time to attempt the millage vote again and then determine how they should modify their proposal.

“We’ll look at all factors but we haven’t made a decision yet,” he said. “We appreciate the support of our community and ultimately, we hope that the next time around, that the community understands the needs of the district and of the youth and the community and that that’s reflected in decisions they make at the polls.”

The Alger County Board of Canvassers will meet at 9 a.m. today to certify the election results.


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