News Story

Saginaw lawmaker earmarked $1.9M to fix elementary school pool

School district blames ‘bugs’ after pages vanish from website

A state representative from Saginaw ensured that Michigan taxpayers will spend $1.9 million to fix a local swimming pool. The state largesse comes just a year after Saginaw voters said no to paying for school maintenance themselves.

Michigan’s 2024-25 state budget includes a grant for pool repairs at Sherwood Elementary School in Saginaw Township. Rep. Amos O’Neal, D-Saginaw, added the pool-fix funds to the current budget proposal, according to a district official. 

Pages related to the project disappeared from the district’s website last week, after Michigan Capitol Confidential requested comment.

A since-deleted announcement via the Saginaw Township Community Schools website said the pool shut down in February 2022 because of structural problems. Items needing repair include a dehumidifier, walls, the ceiling, and the roof, according to the notice.

The shutdown left local community members, who have been swimming in the pool for 35 years, high and dry, Steve Elliott, Saginaw Township Community Schools director of community services, told Michigan Capitol Confidential in a phone interview. Working out in water, Elliott noted, can alleviate chronic joint and spinal pain.

The state taxpayer support is coming courtesy of O’Neal, a second-term legislator from the city of Saginaw, Elliott said. The lawmaker couldn’t be reached for comment. The $1.9 million will ensure no district funds are spent on the pool. 

The district recently switched website technology, which might have broken the links, Elliott told CapCon.

Once the district receives the money in October, it would take roughly six to eight months to repair the pool. Assuming repairs started in October, the pool could be repaired by spring of next year, Elliott said.

A $1.5 million request for donations to fix the pool also vanished from the district site last week.

The Saginaw Township Community Schools district serves nearly 4,600 students across eight elementary, middle and high schools. In 2018, voters established a 10-year sinking fund to pay off bond debt. As of 2023, it had collected $5.27 million. Of that money, $542,000 was spent on repairs at Sherwood Elementary, according to a school website page that was removed but archived through the Wayback Machine.

Saginaw voters rejected a 2023 bond proposal seeking $242 million on the May 2023 ballot. The bond would finance improvements at all school facilities, according to plans on the district website.

An earlier announcement on the district’s website said the pool repair would cost $1.9 million. Because the pool is for community use, the district “cannot divert instructional general funds for the repairs.” Some of the funding may be used from the district’s sinking fund, however, if other projects are completed under budget.

The district received $8.56 million in federal COVID relief funds.

State taxpayers have increasingly paid for district pork projects through the state budget. Most of the awardees are hand-picked by requests from district legislators. There is no grant process to ensure others can compete for the money, nor is there legislative vetting to ensure the funding is a proper use of taxpayer dollars.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.