Gwinn school millage failure was major disappointment

If you want good schools, you have to pay for them.

It’s that way in the Gwinn Area Community Schools District and everywhere else, for that matter.

We understand many people are on a fixed or limited income, but the GACS millage request for 1.75 mills for 10 years for a sinking fund to fund various repairs and upgrades in the district seemed like a reasonable one.

The request failed in a special Tuesday election, 686 to 507.

The district reached out to the community many times to explain its needs for the sinking fund, conducting community forums on several occasions.

The topic was laid out in an easy-to-understand manner on its website at gwinnschools.org.

The sinking fund would have gone toward repairs, upgrades and replacement of facilities and technology. Many of the identified repairs directly impact student instruction and safety such as replacement of school flooring, an intercom system, a telephone system, classroom plumbing, ventilation and other items.

Without a sinking fund, the general fund would have to support facility costs, resulting in less money to support teachers, programs, textbooks, buses and other instructional needs.

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

As it stands, the district anticipates ending with a $87,000 deficit in June.

It should be noted the sinking fund couldn’t have been used to fund ongoing operating expenses, salaries or benefits, textbooks and supplies, nor could it have been used for general fund expenditures.

Would it have cost a homeowner a huge chunk of cash to help out the school district?

Had the 1.75-mill request passed, a resident living in a home with a taxable value of $50,000 would have paid $87.50 for the tax year. Divided by 365 days, that equaled about 24 cents a day for the sinking fund.

Let that “sink” in.

Even if homeowners don’t have children attending school in the district, many youngsters are in school, and they deserve a quality education. Students grow up, get jobs and sometimes stay in the area, and educating them is a good investment for a community.

Students still can receive a quality education in the GACS district, but now it will be more difficult.

On the district’s Facebook page, GACS Superintendent Sandy Petrovich thanked the residents who voted for the millage, noting the GACS Board of Education soon will decide the next steps in the process.

“We definitely need a sinking fund to support the future years of education in our district,” Petrovich wrote.

She recommended people visit the GACS website to view the draft project list for the next 10 years.

Petrovich told The Mining Journal on Wednesday morning that millage requests could take place in August or November.

People who cast ballots against the millage on Tuesday should reconsider their votes; Petrovich stressed the need still is urgent.

It’s a community’s responsibility to support a school district to whatever degree it’s going to support it. However, should an important millage request fail, the public shouldn’t be surprised when a school’s floors are crumbling, or a district can’t pay for new teachers when it has to replace a phone system instead.