Osceola schools hope for millage support in May

OSCEOLA COUNTY — School officials in two Osceola County partners in the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District are worried.

If the Enhancement Millage being proposed to voters on May 9 does not pass, they believe there will be serious trouble.

“We’re not going to be broke ...yet,” noted Evart district superintendent Howard Hyde. “We just won’t be able to carry out a lot of very basic work that needs to be done. It’s as simple as that.”

Evart and Reed City school districts have joined with Morley Stanwood, Big Rapids and Chippewa Hills districts in asking voters to approve a millage that will bolster flagging operational funds in each district, and allow them to make vital purchasing plans for the future.

The MOISD districts are asking for .75 mills for five years. The cost to each household and the collective revenue received will be dependent on taxable value of individual homesteads.

The millage will be levied against all properties in a given school district. If the bid passes, the owner of a home that has a taxable value of $50,000, (a real value of $100,000), for example, could expect to pay in the area of $37.50 a year in millage funding. Considerably less than a meal for four at a basic eatery in Big Rapids or Cadillac.

Double the value of the home and property, and double the taxable value, and a district resident could expect to pay approximately $75 a year in support of area schools.

While the ISD will collect the proposed millage, each school district will receive a portion of the whole depending on the number of students in that district. The ISD as an entity will not receive any of the collected moneys.

The millage bid will pass or fail on the collective count of votes in all five districts - not in each individual district.

In The Evart Public Schools district, it is estimated the amount of operational funding that could be raised by this millage would be approximately $183,857, although district planners suggest this figure might be a bit high.

In the Reed City Area Public Schools district, officials believe $269,073 will be raised for operational needs if the millage is passed.

These figures were estimated with a formula including the presumed taxable value of all properties in the county; the capturing of .75 mills on that figure; and the dividing of the resultant figure among the five MOISD districts to the tune of an estimated $178.14 per student.

It should be noted that the taxable value of properties in Osceola County have, in many cases, gone down. This will affect the total amount of millage funding captured and distributed.

It also must be stressed that any funding raised through the proposed millage would be used entirely, wholly, and solely for operational needs of the district.

Not one penny would be used for salaries, benefits or perks.

Operational expenditures could include, (but not exclusively), spending on such items as school buses, building and structure repairs or renovations, physical plant upgrades, and furnishings as needed

In Evart, district superintendent Howard Hyde says the additional funding that could be put to use by his district is desperately needed, and will be directed to very specific needs.

“This funding will pay no salaries and will not directly benefit any district employee,” noted Hyde.

“People will ask that again and again. I feel a real need to emphasize that this millage is being proposed only to create funding to cover our operational expenses.”

Operating expenses that may not be covered if the millage doesn’t pass, according to the superintendent.

“At this stage, we already have repairs that need to be made but aren’t because we just don’t have the money,” he pointed out.

“Can we survive without this proposed millage funding?

“I suppose. But it just means that at some point we will need to pay for the repairs anyway and by that time we will have less money, and the repair itself will be more expensive.

“Actually, the first thing we need to purchase is a couple buses. That could well take all the money we receive the first year — if this millage passes.”

Hyde noted that the district had already been purchasing used buses to cover district needs.

Along with buses and other transportation issues, Hyde identified the need to replace boilers, ceiling and floor tiles, carpeting, outside doors in school buildings, plumbing, a door locking system, communications equipment and more.

The district needs a new lawnmower, playground equipment in good repair, classroom furniture, and other immediate projects.

The middle school building is in serious need of tuck pointing, gym floors need refinishing, and a portion of the roof on the high school needs to be replaced.

And more ... and more ... and more.

“”We have serious, and expensive problems facing the district,” noted Hyde.

“The fact is, we don’t have the money to cover these repairs.

“There are some things that could potentially just not be done.

“There are other things that simply cannot be put off, but they will need to be covered at the expense of some other program.

“We won’t go broke without this funding, but people need to know we will simply not be able to maintain the system in that way it should be maintained without this operational funding.

“It can’t happen. The math just won’t add up ... ever.”

In the Reed City school district, planners have pretty much worked out how the  money they hope to receive from the Enhancement Millage will be spent ... if it actually banked.

The first year, the district hopes to purchase two buses, replace gym lighting, make sidewalk repairs at a school facility, renovate the security camera system, create middle school partitions, and repair the middle school water heater.

This items will eat up the entire estimated $270,000 the district stands to collect from the first year millage.

In following years, purchasing and repairs plans are very much the same.

No frills.

Just the basic needs.

According to superintendent Steven Westhoff, the millage won’t add anything fancy to the district’s operational “menu.” No caviar. Just beans and rice.

“We are talking about the most basic needs here,” noted Westhoff.

“We aren’t going to be paying for anything fancy.

“This millage is to cover operating costs. We need the  millage funding to pay for things that must be done ... must be.

“If we don’t get this millage funding, we will be forced to pay for these needs from some other budget.

“Quite honestly, that will most likely mean cuts in staffing and programs.

“We don’t have any more fat to trim from the bone. That changed years ago.

“We won’t be closing the doors if this  millage request fails, but we will be needing to  look once again at how were going to keep the basic operation going.

“We will be cutting into the two areas that most impact the quality of education were able to offer here.

“That’s all there is to it.”