Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

April 13, 2013

Federal dollars to Glen Lake schools

TRAVERSE CITY — A $9.7 million influx of federal dollars to Glen Lake Community Schools could mean lower tax bills for residents of the school district.

The funding came to GLCS this week as the federal Department of Education released three years worth of what is known as “impact aid” monies to the district. Impact aid dollars are intended to assist local school districts that lose property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal lands, in this case Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

“It’s excellent news,” said Jennifer Omerza, president of the GLCS Board of Education.

GLCS began collecting impact aid funding in 2007, but changes to federal regulations in 2009 stopped the flow of money for three years.

The $9.7 million will be put in the district’s fund balance, and school board members are considering using the cash to, among other things, pay down two seven-year bonds approved by voters in May totaling $1.9 million for technology and busing improvements. The district floated the millages in part due to concerns about the withheld impact aid funding.

“Now that we have received this big payment, we are probably in a position to forgo levying the tax at least for this year,” Omerza said.

District officials will annually decide whether to levy the bond taxes at the school board’s June budget hearings.

GLCS has an overall budget of about $10 million. The impact aid program replaces about 3 cents of every dollar in forfeited tax revenue due to the creation of Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Omerza admitted that amount is not ideal.

“But hey, it works out to be a lot of money,” she said.

Omerza credited GLCS Superintendent Joan Groening with pursuing the release of the federal dollars in cooperation with Leelanau County officials, and senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Leivn.

Groening called the release of the impact aid money “a huge relief,” especially as school districts across Michigan face tough financial choices.

“Instead of looking at cut plans, we can spend our time continuing to implement technology changes and improving the curriculum,” Groening said.



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