Senate Committee Approves Expansion of Sinking Funds for Buses

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, June 7, 2017

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Finance approved Senate Bill 384, which would expand the use of sinking funds to include the purchase of buses. MASB fully supports this bill as allowing sinking funds to be used for buses has been a legislative priority for many years.

In the last legislative session, allowable uses were expanded to include technology and school security. During debate of that bill, we made sure that legislators knew that adding buses was a priority. However, the compromise that was struck between the school and business communities was fragile and any attempts to change that agreement could have sunk the entire bill. Therefore, we did not push to have it included, but promised to continue to work in that direction.

We were excited to see SB 384 sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) brought up for a hearing. MASB testified in support of the bill at committee on Tuesday along with some local superintendents, a transportation manager, the West Michigan Talent Triangle and the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation. A number of other education organizations also expressed support. Testimony focused on local decisionmaking, better use of taxpayer dollars and giving districts one more tool to manage their budgets. The superintendents and MAPT also laid out data surrounding the age of bus fleets and the dangers and costs that come with older buses. Allowing sinking funds to replace buses could create a replacement cycle for districts that is safer and more economical.

The opposition predictably came from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and other local chambers that see this as an erosion to Proposal A and stated that their businesses don’t get to vote but have to pay the tax. This last assertion was challenged by Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) who asked about business owners who live within the school district and the various other organizations that a business can use to affect the outcome of an election.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies also testified in opposition to the bill as creating inequities in districts.

The committee voted 5-1 with one member abstaining to approve SB 384 and send it to the full Senate. We urge you to contact your Senator and let them know of your support for the bill and what it could mean for your district. 

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