Zorn bill would allow schools to use sinking funds to buy buses

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan school districts could use sinking fund revenues to purchase school buses under legislation introduced by Sen. Dale Zorn.

“Michigan is spending more today on K-12 education than ever in state history, yet many schools are having a hard time keeping up with cost increases,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “As I am fighting for more School Aid funds to be used in the student foundation allowance, I also want to give our school districts more flexibility in ensuring they have the necessary funding to provide safe transportation for our students.”

A sinking fund is created by a school district through the levying of a tax millage on property in the district. Under current law, the sinking fund revenue may be used for security improvements, to acquire or upgrade technology, for the purchase of land for school buildings, and for the repair of those buildings and grounds.

Senate Bill 384 would expand the use of a sinking fund to allow school districts to use it to purchase school buses. The bill clarifies that the sinking fund revenue could not be used for salary or benefits for school bus drivers or for the costs to service or maintain buses.

“This is all about student safety,” Zorn said. “Thousands of Michigan students take the bus to and from school each day and use them to go on school outings or to a school sport’s game. Their safety on the bus should always be a top priority.

“Older buses are also the most expensive to operate and maintain, the most polluting, have the most outdated safety technology and are the least reliable. Allowing schools to purchase buses with sinking fund revenues would help make busing more efficient and safe, and save millions of dollars from not having to pay bond or loan interest.”

Zorn said that there are approximately 5,000 school buses operating every school day in Michigan that are at least 10 years old, including four buses that are 22 years old.

“People in my communities are asking for the ability to help sustain their schools and a sinking fund decided by a vote of the people will help sustain a school district,” Zorn said. “Newer buses would be safer, less expensive to maintain and enable schools to put more dollars into classrooms instead of being used to keep aging bus fleets on the road. I look forward to having a committee hearing soon on this key reform.”

SB 384 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.