The BHSD operates an 88-acre farm at the northeast corner of the district. It's OUR farm.
The farm operates at taxpayer expense, and runs at a significant financial deficit.
Based on documents received from a FOIA request earlier this year, we know that the farm operates at a deficit of more than $350,000 annually. That figure does not include any expense for veterinary care. Our farm has many horses and other large animals.
Farm Manager, Holly Glomski, is young, talented and enthusiastic. She has developed many programs and features that may help bring in funds to support the farm's operation. (Corn maze, summer farm/camp programs, "leasing" of farm animals, etc.)
But the farm belongs to BHSD taxpayers, who are obligated, by way of property tax requirements, to pay for its operating expenses.
(Don't get me wrong: I like the farm. I live near it, and enjoy seeing the pretty horses, sweet sheep, llamas, rolling acreage. It's charming. I also "like" expensive shoes and luxury vacations. Doesn't mean I always get what I want, and I certainly don't ask other people to pay for them.)
Can our small, local, school district afford to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to operate a farm? Is there a better way to operate the farm, without asking our students to sacrifice education tax funding to support it?
I watched a portion of a presentation by Ms. Glomski last evening (had to leave early, and I was very sorry to do so) and was struck by the fact that special programs at the farm are openly marketed to non-taxpayers and that resident taxpayers are NOT afforded any advantage in opportunity to participate. This is wrong, and is a disservice to those of us who are obligated to support the farm.
According to the report, the BHSD farm had 50,000 visitors last year. Where did they come from? Do they pay taxes to support it? Perhaps if the farm was operated as a county-wide or regional asset, more and better use of the acreage would be attained and its expense would not fall to BHSD taxpayers alone.
The farm operates at taxpayer expense. Farm employees are paid by way of BHSD taxpayers. They work for US. The BHSD school farm should serve the BHSD. If this taxpayer-base is not adequate to provide funding, then control of that acreage should be transferred to a regional operating authority.
The school farm is "unique." Not many small school districts, like ours, can afford to operate an 88-acre farm using tax dollars intended for education. I wonder if ANY school districts actually can afford this kind of expense.
Please don't try to convince me that there is anything "educational" about a Corn Maze. Please don't try to convince me that the "farm pays for itself." It isn't, and it doesn't.
I would like to suggest that BHSD leaders begin a conversation with the Oakland County Intermediate School district and Oakland County officials to see if regional funding might be made available to support the farm. If elected, I will make this a priorty. We BHSD taxpayers should not be required support an operation that is open to non-resident, non-taxpayers, with local education tax dollars, that runs in a deficit.
If our local school farm is being used by non-residents of the BHSD, and advertising funds are being used to attract non-taxpayers to enjoy it, who do not contribute to its tax funding, perhaps the farm should be operated by a regional organization or government entity, and not by our small, local school district.