LANSING, Mich. — Officials from area schools testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday in support of Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to allow Michigan school districts to use sinking fund revenues to purchase school buses.
“Passing this bill will improve student safety, lower operational costs, put more education dollars in the classroom and allow voters to decide how to help sustain their schools,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “The real benefit of a using a sinking fund to purchase school buses is having funds to pay for projects as they are completed and saving school districts the high cost of borrowing or bonding, which creates long term debt and interest. Reducing debt will put more money back in the classrooms.”
A sinking fund is created by a school district through the levying of a tax millage on property in the district. Under current law, the sinking fund revenue may be used for security improvements, to acquire or upgrade technology, for the purchase of land for school buildings, and for the repair of those buildings and grounds.
Senate Bill 384 would expand the use of a sinking fund to allow school districts to use it to purchase school buses. The bill clarifies that the sinking fund revenue could not be used for salary or benefits for school bus drivers or for the costs to service or maintain buses.
“Small communities like Britton and Deerfield need a strong school system to keep our villages viable as a place where people want to live and raise a family,” said Scott Langmeyer, a resident of the Britton Deerfield Schools district. “Expanding how the sinking fund is used would greatly benefit schools like ours in rural communities. I thank the committee for considering Senator Zorn’s legislation. Our schools need this to be able to keep operating funds where they belong: educating our children.”
Zorn said that there are approximately 5,000 school buses operating every school day in Michigan that are at least 10 years old, including four buses that are 22 years old.
“Older buses are more expensive to operate and maintain, the most polluting, have the most outdated safety technology and are the least reliable,” Zorn said. “Allowing schools to purchase buses with sinking fund revenues would help make school transportation more cost efficient and safe.”
The committee approved the bill, which now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Editor’s note: The above photographs are available by clicking on the images or by visiting www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/Photowire.