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ABS to Seek Tax Increase for Aquatic Center

Residents in the district will vote on the half-mill levy in May.

In effort to keep the afloat, Anchor Bay School District is asking voters to approve a half-mill levy in May.

Anchor Bay Schools will seek the three-year levy from district voters in a special election Tuesday, May 8, school officials announced this week.

The tax is estimated to cost an average of about $30 each year for homeowners, bringing in a total of approximately $518,000 the first year. Supplies, wages, utilities and maintenance at the center cost roughly $430,000 annually, District Business Director Kyle Anderson said Thursday.

School officials say the levy is needed to maintain the center for residents and students.

“It’s a shame due to Lansing’s cuts that we have had to lay off 30-plus employees, cut pay and benefits, and once again, expect no increase next year,” Board President Steve Mittelstadt said in a prepared statement. “In fact, when you consider the increase in costs from the state, we receive less actual spending dollars for our children than we received 10 years ago.”

“The aquatic center needs to be self-sufficient so that educational funds are available for our preschool through 12th grade programs, which include band, music, drama, athletics, physical education and art classes. The millage will enable the district to continue to operate the aquatic center for community use, and provide a stable funding source that is locally controlled, not in the hands of Lansing’s priorities,” Mittelstadt said.

Board Treasurer Janine Accivatti-Hendershot said Anchor Bay Schools receives the can get in Michigan.

Levy sought for center upkeep

According to the district news release on the levy, "Planned upgrades for the facilities include converting the current multi-purpose room to an upgraded cardio fitness/exercise room for all ages to work-out.

"The district plans additional water aerobics, low impact training, water fitness and water safety classes for all ages. The aquatic center will provide child care services to residents who use the cardio fitness/exercise room or pool, and discounted rates will be offered to parents, senior citizens and area residents."

If passed, the recreation millage may be used for operation of the aquatic center and the high school theater. An independent certified public accounting firm will audit related expenditures, the district stated, for proper allocation and use.

District rallies around center

Several officials expressed their opinions in the release regarding the aquatic center:

  • Board Vice President Ron Osborne: “With the reductions that the state has done over the last several years, if something big were to break at the Aquatic Center the district could not afford it."
  • Board Secretary Heather Bade: “We cannot do it on our own. Community organizations can’t either. But by working together we can offer great recreational opportunities. We can make a positive impact. We could have grants for summer programs, youth programs, and area recreation and senior programs."
  • Board member Robert Bidlingmaier: “With the state reducing funding over the last several years, we can no longer continue to take money from classrooms and school budgets to operate the Aquatic Center as a community center. We are going to continue to operate the Aquatic Center for the next year for the varsity boys’ and girls’ swim teams and school programs, but this millage is for operating as a community center."
  • Board member Terri Vaillancourt: “This is not a five, 10, or 20-year millage. This is for three years and gives the community an opportunity to decide after three years the direction they want to go in."
  • Colleen Mellon, aquatic center supervisor: “Our Aquatic Center is a wonderful community asset. The next closest aquatic center for residents to use would cost more than $30 a year in gasoline just to drive to swim.” 
  • Board Vice President Ron Osborne: “We want to give the community an opportunity to support this proposal. This does not need to be good guy or bad guy. We need to ask the question and we will respect our community’s decision."

New Baltimore declined to lease center

The levy proposal comes after New Baltimore officials from the district for recreational programs.

The proposal to lease the aquatic center for the recreation department was an attempt to alleviate and broaden parks and recreation resources and facilities. But and possible losses on the deal kept the council from committing to the idea.

"All of this burden would be going on the taxpaying residents of New Baltimore," Councilwoman Susan Burkhardt said at an August meeting when city council majority halted the lease deal.

For more information visit the Anchor Bay Schools website at www.anchorbay.misd.net. The Board of Education will have community meetings at the Aquatic Center and dates will be on the district website and Channel 6 in at undetermined times in the near future, according to the district.

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