How to best address long term capital needs over the next ten years within the Howell Public Schools district was discussed during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

The board received an overview of long term capital needs to make sure the district has a plan in place as various improvements are needed, specifically related to security and items such as heating and cooling, roofs, sidewalks and parking lots. The rough estimate is around $18.5 (m) million for ten years and potential funding options were laid out. The district has roughly $1.9 (m) million remaining from the sale of Latson Road property to put toward capital items. One option was to utilize that and start modifying general fund allocations but that could potentially negatively impact programs. The other option, which the board agreed to pursue, is putting a sinking fund request on the November 2018 ballot. The sinking fund option would also include using the Latson funding for bus purchases and then also modifying the general fund budget to account for buses and instructional resources.

MacGregor says his recommendation was to not adjust the general fund, which would mean they would have to significantly reduce some programs for kids at a time when many are being recognized for great things. He says those are opportunities they want to provide and he believes the community wants to provide as well. MacGregor says the district is in a situation where they could ask voters to maintain the current millage rate and still capture the money needed to fulfill capital needs. It was noted the district has been very fiscally responsible, which is demonstrated by existing debt millage rates as Howell is the lowest of all districts in the county at 6.4 mills, with debt set to expire in 2029. MacGregor says he anticipates the board would make a commitment to hold the existing debt millage rate, so there would be no increase to taxpayers. Since property values are increasing, MacGregor says they would be able to capture that gap and put those funds toward district needs.

The board ultimately gave the green light to move forward with some planning work to identify specific needs and develop ballot language for the November 2018 election. It would likely be a point-5 mill request, to generate $1.2 to $1.3 (m) million annually, depending on how property values fluctuate. (JM)