LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Thoughts on Buchanan Schools’ May 2 millage

Published 11:30 am Saturday, April 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The following are my reasons for voting “NO” on the proposed $34.7 million school millage on the May 2 Buchanan ballot.

(1) The School has received several million dollars from the federal government for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) items listed as one of the items covered by the millage. This means that the School will not have to borrow money and pay long term interest on it to achieve these HVAC programs. But the HVAC money has not been deducted from the millage request. This is dishonest. 

(2) When I was growing up we would get in the mail the Sears Roebuck Mail Order Catalog. It contained all sorts of things we could order through the mail that we didn’t really require and didn’t have the money to buy but which were nice things. Some people called the Catalog the “wish book”.

The School must be careful not to require the taxpayers by millage votes to pay out of their limited moneys for things that it doesn’t absolutely require. The test is “is it necessary or is it nice?” Individual taxpayers may decide to buy with their money nice but unnecessary things, but they must not vote for school millage proposals requiring the other taxpayers to pay for such things. The School Board must have the discipline to resist making such millage requests. Just about all the requests in the millage proposal fall in the nice but not necessary category. Individual taxpayers may donate some of the nice things to the school. The Niles Schools are going to put down artificial turf on the football field, but the money to do that is largely coming from voluntary private donations. The estate of a widely respected Buchanan family has given the money for bleachers for the middle school.

(3) Harvey Burnett, the School Board President, was quoted in the St. Joseph Herald Palladium, with regard to the voting down of a nearly identical millage at the November 2022 election as saying: “Another focus (of the Buchanan School Board) will be how to repair the district’s aging infrastructure since the millage didn’t pass”. 

The School Board is required to maintain the infrastructure up to standard with the money it receives from the State of Michigan to run the schools. It should never be in a place where it has to borrow money at long term variable interest rates based on the prime rate to do this. It might ask for millage to expand the infrastructure to receive an increase in students. But we haven’t had that. In this period of heavy inflation and rising gasoline prices we must all tighten our belts. As to aging infrastructure, Harvard University is still operating out of buildings built in the 18th century. Age is not a factor so long as the infrastructure is properly maintained.

Don Ryman