Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ballot Language Explained

Something that often comes up in ballot questions like our upcoming November 5th bond proposal is the nature of the language.  Many have remarked to me that the language is at least somewhat confusing.  Often folks wonder why it can't just be a bit more clear and simple!

The short answer to why the bond language is the way it is presented is that it is due to legal issues that have played out over the years, resulting in requirements that often times come across as complicated or strange to the layperson seeking to make an informed decision.  This is why we have worked hard as a district to educate our community through in-person forums, news media, mailings, and other forums (including blogs like this one). 

One example of this is surrounding the first lines of our Nov. 5th ballot question, which reads as follows...

Shall Benzie County Central Schools, Benzie, Manistee, Grand Traverse, and Wexford Counties, Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed forty-seven million eight-hundred and fifty thousand ($47,850,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds therefor, in one or more series, for the purpose of...

A major question often is why are 4 counties listed on the ballot question?  Folks often wonder if this means that our taxes are shared with other districts, or if we are collecting taxes from beyond our district.

The answer to this questions is really quite simple, but often unrealized.  Benzie County Central Schools district boundaries go beyond Benzie County lines!  Indeed, our district has significant portions of Northern Manistee County within our district as well as relatively small portions of Wexford and Grand Traverse Counties in the Southeastern portion of our district.  In fact - one of our buildings, Betsie Valley Elementary, is actually located in Manistee County!

It is required for school districts to list each county in which they have any property at all on any ballot question.  So there you have it - we are required to list 4 counties on our ballot.  But rest assured, this bond ONLY impacts those residents within our DISTRICT boundaries and the bond funds will benefit ONLY Benzie Central Schools - not other neighboring districts.

In addition, I have had people ask about the language above referring to general obligation unlimited tax bonds.  Often people misperceive this language as giving the district the right to collect as much tax as we'd like!  This, of course, is not the case.  The bond question specifically authorizes the district to borrow up to 47.85 million dollars only.  We then are obligated to levy a millage to pay back those bonds at the term set (26 years).  This results in the millage rates that we have widely distributed and discussed - a total levy of 2.98 mills (an increase of less than 1/2 of a mill from our current levy of 2.5 mills).

We recognize that ballot language can be confusing, and as such, have worked with our bond attorney and the state treasury department to make the language as clear and concise as legally allowed while still accomplishing what is needed for the project.

As always, I encourage anyone with any questions to reach out to me directly at (231) 882-9653 or email me at olsonmp@benzieschools.net.  I'm happy to answer any questions!

Thanks for reading and please remember to VOTE NOVEMBER 5th!!!

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