Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 20, 2013

Restricted millage money frees up other dollars

TRAVERSE CITY — Voters will weigh in on two capital project millage proposals next month that could raise up to $48 million for Traverse City Area Public Schools.

But state law restricts how the district can spend that money if the millages are approved.

"Capital dollars cannot be used for salaries and benefits or any other operating cost," said Paul Soma, TCAPS associate superintendent of finance & operations. "That said, this bond does pay for things that take pressure off the general fund."

Local school districts receive the bulk of their general fund operating dollars from Michigan's State School Aid Fund, which draws revenue from a variety of state tax bases and federal funds, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Districts rely on voter-authorized bond sales to generate money for capital projects like bus and technology replacements, elementary school renovations, and the Central High School auditorium reconstruction that comprise the bulk of TCAPS' two 2013 ballot measures, according to millage information published by TCAPS. Millage revenues are used to pay off those bonds.

Any revenue from successful millages next month can't be spent on classroom expenses, but successful millages will free up general fund money the district would otherwise need to spend on costs like repairing failing roofs and replacing old buses.

"If we didn't have this bond, we would need to be taking money from the classroom to pay for those things," Soma said.

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