Farmington Schools trustees: More work to be done

Farmington Public Schools trustees on Tuesday approved ballot language for a $98 million, 2020 bond question, saying the funds are about needs, not wants.

Voters in 2015 approved a $131.5 million bond program that will soon wrap up with $800,000 in basic parking lot, roof and security upgrades at the Schulman Administrative Center and Maxfield Education Center; $1.1 million for the purchase of 10 new buses; and $1.1 million for improved technology infrastructure and devices for students and teachers.

Thanks to construction and technology savings, Facilities Director Jon Riebe said, the district will have $3.5 million left from that bond issue for General Fund capital needs and to complete “critical projects”.

Board Vice President Terry Johnson praised staff members and a citizen bond oversight committee for ensuring that funds were appropriately spent.

“You guys did a fabulous job,” he said. “There’s more work that needs to be done.”

Riebe said a 2009-2010 facilities study framed the 2015 bond proposal, and now those facilities are 10 years older.

”To extend the life of these school buildings, we need to take a hard look at our infrastructure,” he said, adding that the district will need to replace more than 50 buses over the next 5-7 years.

The new bond is expected to cover:

  • $72.5 million in critical infrastructure needs
  • $20 million in technology improvements
  • $5.5 million in bus replacements

Overall millage rate will drop

Bond counsel Amanda Van Deusen of Miller Canfield reviewed the ballot question, which is mostly “boiler plate” language required by the State of Michigan. In addition to identifying the amount of the bond, it notes that the overall millage rate for debt will drop from 3.3 mills to 3.2 mills.

The question also specifies that bond proceeds “may not be used to pay teacher or administrator salaries, routine maintenance costs or other School District operating expenses.”

All seven trustees expressed support for the measure.

Trustee Richard Mukamal, who served on the Building and Site/Safety Committee, said one of the reasons he ran for a board seat was to “look at how money was being spent and the thinking behind that.”

“The process used, I can assure the public, was very thorough and we are mindful of the fact that we are spending the public’s money,” he said.

Trustee Jessica Cummings pointed out that the district has two million square feet of facilities to manage. “We want our buildings to be presentable, safe, and ready for students to come in and learn.”

Board President Pam Green singled out the technology piece as a critical part of preparing students for careers of the future. “We must maintain current and relevant technology for our students,” she said.

You can watch video of Tuesday’s board meeting, and a November 14 special meeting during which trustees discussed the bond proposal, at farmington.vod.castus.tv/.

To review the agenda and supporting materials for this meeting, visit v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=1000199

Correction: The debt millage reduction numbers were incorrectly reported in the original version of this post.