April 24, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 96

School should consider 'more reasonable' funding

To the Editor:

There is absolutely no doubt that there are necessary upgrades and repairs that must be made to the Bessemer Area Schools. Given the condition of the local economy and population flux, I feel it is imperative that a very conservative position be taken on this proposal.

The ballot clearly states that $6,760,00 will be borrowed “for the purpose of remodeling, equipping and re-equipping existing school buildings, in part with security, safety and energy conservation improvement; acquiring and installing instructional technology in existing school buildings, and purchasing school buses.”

There’s still room for discussion on upgrades and improvements, but there’s no doubt about the necessity of replacing the high school roof. Two new school buses are also needed. The safety of our students while in transit should not be questioned.

From information given at the first informational meeting, the total cost, with interest, of this bonding at the end of 25 years will be in excess of $11 million, assuming an assessed millage of 3.5 percent and a corresponding interest rate of 3.5 percent. However, the ballot clearly states that the estimated levy will be 4.00 mills with a clarification that “the simple average annual millage anticipated to be required to retire this bond debt is 5.66 mills.”

Further, there is ballot language that the district expects to borrow from the State School Bond Qualification and Loan Program the estimated amount of $821,125 with an accrued interest of $624,613, for another total of $1,445,738, using an assessed millage of 7 percent for 19 years. That 7 percent is not as dire as it sounds. If the information from the meeting is correct, it’s simply 3.5 new mills added to a current 3.5 on an outstanding $830,000 bond.

This ballot issue, if approved, becomes a binding contract with the people of both the city of Bessemer and Bessemer Township. No matter what is said about looming millage and interest rates, these figures on the ballot are the only binding ones. If the millage is held to that 3.5 and interest is 3.5 percent, the total cost after 25 years seems to approach $14 million. If the interest rates rise, it will be even more.

I would suggest that the Bessemer Area Board of Education take another look at more reasonable options and area voters take a very close look at the ballot before making their decision on how to vote.

Allen Archie

Bessemer