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Board Votes to Put School Bond on Feb. 28 Ballot

Residents will vote on $22.825 million bond that would include asbestos removal from Ferndale High School, heating and cooling systems for buildings and a kitchen area for Roosevelt.

The Ferndale Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to put a $22.825 million bond proposal before residents on a Feb. 28 election ballot.

. It includes infrastructure updates such as asbestos removal from , heating and cooling systems for buildings and a kitchen area for .

"It's important to have safe and healthy buildings," board President Keith Warnick said. The upgrades would also improve “building equity” so all students have the same general facilities, he said.

On Nov. 21, the board  to send the application to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Ferndale Schools Superintendent Gary Meier said the application was approved by the state treasury office as of Monday afternoon, before the board met.

“I’m pleased that the board has taken this action,” Meier said after the meeting. “I’m very pleased with the number of citizens who have stepped forward to support this issue.”

Since the Nov. 21 meeting – during which board member Nancy Kerr-Mueller expressed concern about residents not having enough time to learn about the bond – a citizens group has formed to campaign for the bond. and wants residents to get involved.

Importance of bond improvements discussed

A handful of residents attended the hourlong meeting at the  on Monday, including members of Citizens for Quality Schools.

“We have a lot of work in the next few weeks,” said Ferndale parent Bridget Deegan-Krause, who is involved in the group. She said she's confident the community will understand the need for the bond.

“We are very convinced that maintaining our schools will keep our children learning and our community growing,” said Deegan-Krause, a small business owner and 12-year Ferndale resident.

The district’s consultants, TMP Architecture Inc. and George W. Auch, assisted in determining what projects needed improvement. The original list of projects included about $26 million in immediate improvements and $14 million in alternative projects.

Gary Arnett, a parent in Ferndale who was involved in the subcommittee that worked on narrowing down the proposed bond projects over the summer, said projects like the asbestos abatement are especially important.

“I certainly don’t want my kid or kids, or my neighbors’ kids, having to deal with that,” he said.

Board of Education member Jim Pfleger said he hopes residents will look closely at the projects involved in the bond.

“These are things that really need to be done,” he said, pointing out the extra money it takes to do repairs on worn-out equipment or when asbestos removal is involved. “I think anybody would say it’s not the icing on the cake, it’s the plate underneath the cake.”

Board member Katrina Collins shared the sentiment. “You need a good foundation,” she said.

“It’s really important stuff,” Kerr-Mueller said after the meeting. “I really want people to vote for it.”

Guy Fawkes December 20, 2011 at 02:26 PM
I could be wrong, but I don't think that's how it works. There is no scenario where the school has, say for example a million dollars, and they can just say "Hey! Let's clean up the asbestos instead!" It begins with a feasability study, then the money that's allotted for that ... must go for that. Someone with more knowledge of how the school finances work than I do can correct me if I'm wrong. But I think the above charge is based on a political bent more than it is facts.
Karen Twomey December 20, 2011 at 02:34 PM
I can't speak to the decisions made for the last bond, as I wasn't yet involved. What I do know is that the decision for a similar field to be put in at the school where I work was made after five kids were hurt in one season. Most schools have switched to artificial turfs because they are far safer, easier and cheaper to maintain.
Ferndale_1986 December 20, 2011 at 02:47 PM
maybe they should have dealt with the asbestos with money from the last school bond instead of spending it on football. and now they want more money???
Ferndale_1986 December 20, 2011 at 02:53 PM
@Guy don't assign motives to people's comments. the schools can spend the money however they want once the school bond is passed. @Karen it's a matter of priorities, and they got it wrong.
Michelle Foster December 20, 2011 at 03:20 PM
I wasn't part of the last bond decision, or even living in Ferndale when it was passed. I'm not sure why the asbestos wasn't addressed then but what has passed is past. Now, the priority is asbestos. Other current priorities for passing the bond include creating a healthy school environment, updating to reduce energy costs and increase sustainability, as well as upgrades to keep our curriculum competitive. The statement "the schools can spend the money however they want once the school bond is passed" is incorrect.
Ferndale_1986 December 20, 2011 at 03:28 PM
what i meant was they are bound by the language on the ballot proposal, which probably says the money is for capital improvements, and that is what they have to spend it on. but which specific improvements or projects are done i believe is up to the school board, i don't think they are legally bound by any plan or study before the fact.
Karen Twomey December 20, 2011 at 03:44 PM
The school board is required to be very specific about the exact projects the money will be spent on. A spreadsheet providing each line item of this bond money can be found on the district website, and the administration would be more than happy to answer any questions about the projects individually or at one of the upcoming public forums (next one is 1-11 @the PR Rec). As for the prioritization, that was determined by a diverse committee of resident stakeholders. Members of that committee are also available for questions. Due to funding cuts, and despite inflation, FPS is operating on a budget slightly less than ten years ago. Fiscal responsibility is a top concern for the sustainability of the education system. I appreciate your interest in the issue and would be happy to help lead you to any of the information you seek. Happy holidays.
Chris Mueller December 20, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Ferndale_1986, I think you would be happy to know that 1. The bond items that were chosen to be addressed in both of the last 2 bonds and the current bond proposal were developed, itemized, and scrutinized by a group of about 20 community members and leaders, school employees, architects, and contractors. 2. Once the bond items become part of the bond proposal and sent to the state in application for the bond election, the request for funds must be spent on the items that were determined by the bond committee. 3. One might consider that some of the capital improvements from the last bond might have been spent on football, but our field is more than simply a football field. Improvements to our field support the health and safety of many of our sports, provides our marching band with a consistent field to march on, and is a source of pride for our Ferndale District families. 4. Freeing up our district resources by passing the bond indirectly supports and maintains teaching and learning. By passing a bond our community makes a commitment to supporting the larger project needs of our buildings, the health and safety of our children, and the longevity of our buildings, and ensures no reduction monies spent on teaching and learning.
Ferndale_1986 December 20, 2011 at 04:13 PM
this school bond doesn't have a snowball's chance of passing. learn to live on less, everyone else has.
Ardy December 20, 2011 at 04:56 PM
As I've said many time before it is very common for school districts to put off maintaining their buildings because they feel that they can come before the citizenry with hat in hand and they will vote for the lump sum for improvements. The bean counters will "save" money by putting off general maintenance but they are really "kicking the can" for future taxpayers. Yes, approving this bond will keep the mills the same amount but the amount of time before it's retired is absolutely unacceptable. Why should we encumber future Ferndaliens like this? What has been presented by the School District that this will be the last time they come to us? What's to say they will be proper stewards with taxpayer assets this time around? There is still time to convience me to change my vote; however, right now it's a "No".
Chris Mueller December 20, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Ardy, I believe that there are many like us out there that are distrustful of where our tax money goes and what those in power are doing with it. The difference with this bond is that I know exactly where my tax dollars will be going and how they will be spent by the district. I also feel much better about the where the money will go because my neighbors made the decisions about where the money will go in an open public forum. All school districts maintain operating budgets that allocate funds for maintenance, its not unlike homeowners maintaining their home, fixing a roof tile that has shifted, fixing a plumbing leak, etc. Our district has not put off maintaining our buildings they have been doing this all along, however, at some point of home ownership large projects that are very costly must be taken on, they may be unexpected, they may be planned, but often times these costs are beyond our regular budgets. Replacing that roof tile, "kicking the can down the road," might be what it takes to not go over budget for the year. Schools, especially lately with reductions in per pupil spending, need to make difficult choices while ensuring high standards of education. I wouldn't say we are encumbering future Ferndale residents, I would say we are making an investment in our Future residents. By passing this bond our community is making a strong statement about the kind of future we desire for our Ferndale Schools community.
Ardy December 20, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Chris -- I've heard all of this before both as a voter and from the "inside". I know how all of "this" goes: Locals who are most likely supporters are rounded up and paraded about and presented the typical "horror show"; figuratively speaking of course. The contractors have a stake in selling the district on upgrading because they want to make money off of the district; and I don't blame them. Looking at the pictures that were presented to the public, I can see how cut backs in maintenance has had a negative affect on the buildings over time. The district, like most in the area, have cut back and allowed the buildings to basically be demo'd by neglect. Then the taxpayer has to come in and save the day when the district should have been better stewards of our assets. What I don't like is that the school district is stuck in a 20th Century mindset. There are more than a few grants out there that would help take the edge off of installing geothermal HVAC units. Why wasn't that explored? Making an investment, yadda yadda, I know, I've used that one, too. That's the typical line. What happened to our last investment? Why will this time around be different? Frankly, I applaud you and the other folks who took their time to be a part of this. It's just that I've seen this movie more than a few times and it always has the same ending. Keep up the good work; citizen involvement is half the battle. Good luck!
Karen Twomey December 20, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Ardy, it sounds as though you have insight that we would have, and still do value. Please come to a meeting and join the conversation in a constructive and productive place (information on www.citizensforqualityschools.org). You and your thoughts are welcome.
Ardy December 20, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Karen - - Thank you very much for the invite. Are there going to be pitchforks and torches awaiting me? lol. I'm kidding. Unfortunately, my schedule prevents me from having too much free time. What I do have left is spent with my family; priorities ya know? Perhaps one day I will be able to be more available for community involvement. Maybe during the next school bond issue? ;) I'll keep tabs and contribute discourse around the various electronic haunts; however.
Elizabeth Pfleger December 22, 2011 at 11:09 PM
If you care to look, the School District's budget is online for all to see (go to http://www.ferndaleschools.org/administration/budget.html). We spend around 10% of the annual budget on operations/maintenance each year- $5.1 million out of a Budget of $41.3 Million this year. This is not benign neglect. However, things have an expected life, even when well maintained. The High School/Middle School is 50 years old and a lot of the original facilities that remain are just worn out - plumbing for toilets and the pools, the Auditorium stage equipment, etc. and need to be replaced or updated. These types of major maintenance projects can not be paid for out of the existing budget, which is why the Bond is being requested. Please take the time to familiarize yourselves with what the money is intended for. Come to one of the meetings so you can be an informed voter!

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