Source: Sherman Publications

Community Forum: Message to Lansing

by Susan Bromley

May 11, 2011

Brandon Twp.- Residents with concerns about any number of state issues are invited to present them to local legislators during a community forum hosted by the Brandon School District, 6:30 p.m., May 16, at the I-TEC Center, 609 Ortonville Road.

State Senator David Robertson and State Representative Brad Jacobsen will answer questions and share their views on school funding and more. Both have received numerous calls, e-mails and letters in recent weeks expressing concern with the proposed state budget, which includes cuts to public education and taxing of pensions for senior citizens.

“I am prepared to answer any questions that any individual constituent might want to ask, on the budget, taxes, education, new bridge— anything they might have,” said Robertson, who represents the 26th District, including Atlas, Brandon, and Groveland townships. “The timing is particularly good for the public forum. The forum guides my opinions in some respects.”

The top issues for citizens are the governor’s tax proposals, particularly the taxing of pension income, he noted, as well as school funding cuts. The House, Senate and Governor Rick Snyder have all offered different budget proposals, but all are with significant cuts to per-pupil funding. Steve Lenar, the acting executive director of fiscal affairs for the Brandon School District, expects a budget shortfall for the district of roughly $2.5 million in 2011-12 based on proposed state cuts.

Jacobsen, who represents the 46th District including Brandon and Groveland townships and the village of Ortonville, agreed that school funding and taxing of pensions are two of the hottest issues, but said there is also a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation out there. He even had one constituent who believed legislators’ proposed cuts would mean $8,000 would be taken from each Lake Orion student, when in fact, that is the total funding per student in that district, not what would be cut.

“We’ve had a lot of calls from teachers, and some parents, and letters of support also, understanding that we need to make some changes,” said Jacobsen. “Some of the public has the impression that we are making drastic cuts to aid... In the House, it’s 3.5 percent cuts. They will pay more in their own pension funds, or there are cuts in healthcare or other benefits. The impression is that we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and that is not the case. Other changes will allow schools to recoup the money.”

He pointed out that the state is looking at their own shortfall of $1.5 to $1.8 billion and legislators are only able to exert control over a small fraction of the budget because of laws governing the expenditure of money.

“If the reforms that the administration recommend go through, it will be a much better budget situation in a year or two,” said Jacobsen. “I am optimistic we’re making moves in the right direction to cut our deficits. We’ve been spending more than we make for a long time. In the 2011-12 budget, with luck, we may put money toward reducing the deficit we’ve accumulated over the years.”

For more information on the community forum, call 248-627-1802.