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Farmington Hills

April 22, 2013

District discusses possible 1.6-mill, $222 million bond

School board to take action April 30; proposed bond could be on special Aug. 6 ballot

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
From left, Farmington Public Schools task force members Anupam Jain, David Ruhland, Alan Maxey and Mary Reynolds discuss the recommended $222 million bond April 18 at North Farmington High School during a community forum.

FARMINGTON HILLS — Whether a 1.6-mill bond that would generate about $222 million for the school district appears on the ballot this summer remains to be seen.

The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education is expected to take action on the matter at its April 30 meeting, to be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Lewis Schulman Administrative Center, 32500 Shiawassee.

The district’s Capital Finance Planning Task Team made the recommendation to approve the bond for placement on an Aug. 6 special election ballot during the board’s April 9 meeting and held a community forum April 18 at North Farmington High School. The board is expected to decide whether to pursue the bond, and if so, when to place it on the ballot. If the issue hits an August ballot alone, it would cost the district about $65,000.

“While there may be a cost in August, we believe it will more than offset the potential cost of materials and interest and emergency repairs we’re going to be facing if we can’t get on top of the work,” said David Ruhland, FPS associate superintendent, at the April 9 meeting.

The task force looked at needs and updated cost analysis of work originally proposed at more than $300 million, and cut the number down to $222 million. The $222 million would help tackle a multitude of needed upgrades within the district, officials said.

About $56 million, or 25 percent, would go toward special program needs, such as upgrading common areas and auditoriums; $51.3 million (23 percent) would be spent on infrastructure upgrades; $42.7 million (19 percent) on classroom upgrades, furnishings and corridor improvements; $40.9 million (19 percent) on instructional technology; $17.2 million (8 percent) on secure entrances; and $13.9 million (6 percent) on transforming media centers in to “collaborative studios.”

“Our schools are over 50 years old. Our newest elementary school is over 20 years old,” said Diane Bauman, director of school and community relations, who said that repairs and maintenance through the district’s ongoing maintenance program only go so far before replacements are needed. “This process began quite a while ago with the facility focus group.”

The district currently has the second lowest millage in Oakland County, with a 2.56-mill tax levy, Bauman said. Bloomfield Hills Schools has the lowest at 2.44 mills and Novi Community Schools has the highest at 8.12 mills. If the 1.60-mill increase for the $222 million bond were to pass, it would put the Farmington district closer to the middle of the county pack at 4.16 mills, Bauman said.

“We’re second to last in Oakland County,” Bauman said. “It’ll be interesting on April 30, and it’s so needed. For the average homeowner, they’ll be paying $8-$10 more per month,” or $96-$120 per year for 25 years, which amounts to a total of $2,400-to $3,000 for the average homeowner over the life of the bond.

In a district survey, resident Anupam Jain said, 62 percent of residents indicated they would support a bond to help improve the district, whereas 28 percent said they would not. However, 46 percent said they would pay $125-$660 per year for improvements, with smaller percentages noting they would pay smaller amounts.

At the April 18 community forum, a few dozen residents gathered with questions about the proposed recommendation.

“They went fine. We had about 50 people there. The task team presented the recommendation they presented to the board April 9,” Bauman said. “There were probably more questions around funding the vision.”

More information on the recommendation, as well as video of both the April 9 and 18 meetings, is available at www.farmington.k12.mi.us.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.