The defeat of last week's sinking fund proposal was surprising. Often, second attempts prove successful but "the charm" wasn't in Imlay City Schools' favor with the three-year levy going down in defeat by a wider margin than one year ago when voters also said "no."
Sinking funds have gained favor among both districts and voters in recent years. They allow schools to collect money without having to pay interest for the funds loaned to them through a bond. Voters typically like them because the funds can only be spent on concrete things like building improvements, not staff salaries. Almont Schools put a proposal before voters three years ago and were successful. In Dryden, it took two tries with residents saying "yes" in 2016. Their neighbors to the east, Capac, have had success in getting more traditional bond measures passed with their latest renewal coming in May of this year.
The district allocates a portion of its budget every year to buildings and grounds projects but during the economic recession, going back more than 10 years now, nearly all schools struggled to keep up with the mounting to-do list. This summer they spent money on repaving parking lots and repairing school roofs to a tune of more than $340,000. A bulk of the funds of the 2017 sinking fund would have been spent on other everyday things like sidewalk and curb repairs and new windows and doors.
Speaking of the recession, when state funding cuts came around, Imlay City Schools aggressively trimmed their budget before many of their neighbors and, it seems, weathered the storm relatively well without having to cut too many programs. They continue various agreements with Dryden Schools that bring in additional revenues and have refunded multiple bonds in the last two years, reportedly saving tax payers some $1.6 million in interest. As of their last audit, the district's fund balance stood at a respectable 13.5 percent.
It would seem that the board and district leaders have shown themselves to be trustworthy with tax payer dollars, so something else must be making voters unhappy. To suggest that the district find more money in their current budget for upkeep would mean cuts in the classroom. After having to do more with less for many years, that doesn't seem to be a fair demand.