Paying for the bond proposal at Farwell Schools

August 30, 2019

Dan Dysinger, Grant Twp Supervisor

Back in 2015 I provided an article whereby special interests, not grass roots taxpayers, spend money promoting a ballot initiative.

It basically outlined then how the taxpayer resources can find its way into promoting a yes or no vote.

Various local government supporting organizations do this on a regular basis.

It’s legal, a loophole large enough to drive a Case tractor through.
I’m not surprised how taxpayers or the public responds at the voting booth when they realized someone was eventually going to pilfer from them legally.

In 2015 voters responded by turning down the Statewide UU initiative 2 to 1 which turned out to be a liberal sham, thankfully voters saw through it.
More recently, the Farwell Area School District voters were treated to such manipulation prior to the failed May 2019 Bond Proposal.

The participating voting public was unaware; they (the Brighter, Safer, Committee) were filling the room with smoke. The “Brighter, Safer Committee” promoting the bond had promotional materials, such as flyers, signs and media promotions.

Who paid for these expensive materials and services?
Campaigns intending to spend more than $1,000 are required to file reports on these expenses.

The report records for the “Brighter, Safer Committee” indicate the money is funneled through a private consulting company called Acuitas LLC from Lansing. Don’t ask how it’s pronounced.

Acuitas provided a goods and services loan for the following expenditures: website hosting $71.40, posters $37.09, wristbands $171.60, copies of a voter list $269.14, printing and social media ads $596.34.

This probably doesn’t cover all the costs but you get the idea. We know Acuitas received the funding for the mentioned expenses, but usually a company doesn’t just provide such services at no cost.

In the business world that leads to failure, profits are an essential requirement. So we must assume they are charging someone for the promotional services and materials, hopefully making a profit.
That is where the trail goes less transparent.

If one visits the website of Acuitas there are a number of very large companies that are customers.

You “google” it and put the final piece in the puzzle of funding the “Brighter, Safer Committee” promotions.

On the list of Acuitas customers there is one large company that is associated with the proposed Farwell School project.

Most of the money likely didn’t come from any local donor or fund raising committee.

This is a legal method of financial funding to promote a voter direction. The blue haze should be clearing away now so you can find your way to the polls in November.

I attended one community forum back in June after the failed May proposal, where I tried to listen and comprehend what levels of feedback were provided.

The Superintendent was trying to build consensus for another attempt at placing an issue before voters.

I never attended another meeting; I was dismayed at the direction it headed.

It is truly amazing how the financial miscalculations from the past decade or more have led to the current issues at Farwell Schools. It does us no good to point fingers, it is counterproductive. But we can learn from the past, understanding what works and what doesn’t.

We should set an example for our school community and utilize the statistics of our past efforts. History is a great teacher.

Schools are where we send our youth for education, so our educators tested with the responsibility of policy should learn too. The tool box is full of tools; just learn how to use them.

We’ll make another point here so everyone can see where we are headed.
After three or four meetings getting some feedback, the Superintendent and Board of Education has embarked on a different plan.

The new plan is nearly as bad as the old one.

Tear something down to build something new.

I also specifically remember back last winter/ spring and again with the new effort this summer a “sinking fund” suggestion was swept from the table. If my memory serves me correctly it was a ridiculed option for consideration, another reason I walked away.

So now, we hear that a “sinking fund” has somehow miraculously reappeared.

Blinders have been replaced by glasses, giving a better field of view. It’s all about finances folks.

Last spring I warned that School Districts and School Leaders need to think outside the box on how finances work. Understand how financial planning is key.

A “sinking fund” and “planning” are words which are now returning topics, isn’t that magnificent?

Although the State is much at fault, get over the blame game and plan in a conservative way. Relying on Lansing for leadership is like asking Tinkerbell for a wish.

A “sinking fund” consideration is back on the table, although not part of this November ballot initiative, next year it may be.

Let’s be clear, voters will be asked for 3 mills in November without a “sinking fund” option.

This could place the Farwell Schools in financial peril.

Understanding how a “sinking fund” can be used, and how it relieves the general fund budget of large transfers is fundamental.

This should have been the plan several years ago; now playing catch up is a difficult path.

My next column will detail why this new warmed up bond proposal is still a bad deal, also why a larger “sinking fund” is better than a smaller one.
Just remember one thing, long term indebtedness is a poor plan.

Editors Note: This column, and all editorial columns and letters to the editor are the opinion of the writers and not necessarily that of this editor or newspaper.

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