Gwinn may seek millage in August

GWINN – A request for a sinking fund millage and a bond issuance could be on the ballot in August for voters in the Gwinn Area Community Schools district.

“You’ve heard this from me before, but it is my recommendation that the board give serious consideration to ballot proposals for a building sinking fund, perhaps 1.5 mills, for ongoing repairs and upgrades for your buildings and then a bond proposal something in the order of $900,000 to $1 million for buses and technology,” interim superintendent Stephen Piereson said.

Piereson said a $995,000 bond would equate to roughly .55 mills for seven years.

Piereson said the district could request a sinking fund as early as May, and a bond in August, though some board members said it might be better to ask voters for both on the same ballot.

Piereson said he would recommend the board consider a sinking fund as well as a bond so the district can update its aging bus fleet and technology infrastructure, two things sinking fund dollars cannot legally pay for.

“We have some really significant needs for building upgrades and infrastructure and bus and technology, those are things we need to do,” Piereson said. “It’s impossible for anyone now – for any schools – to do ongoing building repairs, upgrades, out of the general fund. It’s just not sufficient enough.”

With less than seven months until the August election – and even fewer should the board decide to request a sinking fund on the May ballot – Trustee Joe Boogren said the district needs to get the word out about what problems the buildings have.

“We should be aggressively sharing this information, including photographs – this is what a 50-year-old pipe made out of what is no longer industry standard looks like when it’s been underground and leaking, because we do have a lot of infrastructure problems,” Boogren said.

He said the district needed to do its “due diligence” to inform voters on what the money would be used for.

“I don’t think we’re going to be gilding the hallways or something as opposed to making sure we have the bare necessities to keep students safe and make an atmosphere where teachers can teach and students can learn,” Boogren said.

Piereson offered a number of projects that could be completed with the voter-approved funding, including roofing issues, problems with boilers and replacing aging valves in the plumbing systems of each building.

“This is something we need to work on for the future of this school district,” Treasurer Ron Lauren said. “We need to start working and get this going in the right direction. These buildings are falling apart and its got to get fixed.”

In other action, the board approved a further $2,000 to be paid to Upper Peninsula Engineers and Architects to continue formulating a building usage study.

It also unanimously approved keeping board officers the same, with Gloria Bigelow as president, Ron Libey as vice president, Cindy Filizetti as secretary and Lauren as treasurer.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.