The Ferndale Board of Education on Monday night unanimously approved putting a $22.8 million school bond before voters on Feb. 28, 2012. If passed, the bond would extend a bond of 7 mills.
The recommendation came from a should be pursued and, if so, what would go into the bond.
After nine weeks of meetings, the subcommittee came to consensus of $22.8 million in projects. Some of the most costly projects include the removal and abatement of asbestos from the ($5.2 million), mechanical upgrades to the high school and middle school ($5.4 million), remodeling the high school auditorium and stage ($1.25 million), kitchen construction in and ($1 million) and technological upgrades throughout the district ($3.3 million).
These projects make up about $16 million of the bond. All of the projects were considered infrastructure improvements.
Process, debate, agreement
"As with any process, with any big project, it can sometimes get loud, it gets feelings out, but in the end (the subcommittee) voted for something they understand and felt good about and it wasn't a rubber stamp," . "We feel we were respectful to the taxpayers and got things down to what the district really needed."
The subcommittee had about .
Though the entire committee supported the final projects recommended to the Board of Education, there was debate among the members when determining what is or isn't "mission critical" for the district.
"We were dedicated to remove any fluff that was presented to us but … there wasn't any fluff there," Schusterbauer said. "But we did manage to get it less fluffy."
Questions came up about whether playgrounds were more important than a kitchen in Roosevelt or University High School or if the auditorium upgrades were more important than asbestos removal. In the end, however, all of those items, in some capacity, are a part of the $22.8 million bond proposal.
Items that didn't make it include gym wall pads, fencing replacements, various technological upgrades and various adjustments to carpet replacement and asphalt and concrete walk replacements.
$13 million or less
There was also a portion of the subcommittee that wanted to get the amount of the bond down to $13 million.
Why $13 million? Well, the reason is complicated.
First, due to declining property values, the bonding capacity of the district was compromised. Each May, property valuations are released that show a city's growth percentage compared to the year prior. A school's bonding capacity is based on the five-year average of those growth percentages.
So, in February next year, before growth values are released for 2012 in May, the maximum amount the district could receive in a bond would be about $24 million. In May, when the valuations are updated, a 4.91 growth percentage from 2007 will be replaced by a projected decline of -6 percent, according to the district's financial advisors Stauder-Barch. The projected decline in valuation will drop the five-year growth average from -1.86 to -4.05 percent, thus dropping the district's maximum bonding capacity by about $11 million.
Second, the reason a portion of the subcommittee wanted to get it down to $13 million and have a May vote was so the bond wouldn't have to go on the same date as the tentative Republican primary.
There is concern within the subcommittee that going in February, during the Republican primary, against an electorate that appears to be anti-government spending and anti-tax, will be inclined to vote against a school bond.
. The statistics and the research he did basically said a vote going against a Republican primary would an uphill battle.
"There is a chance that we aren't gonna get it in February," he said last week.
Yet, Ferndale's Superintendent Gary Meier disagrees and has countered the Republican primary argument with saying that the need to upgrade the schools' infrastructure will outweigh any political rhetoric come voting time.
It was clear last week, however, that there would be no way for the subcommittee to get the size of the bond down to $13 million. "We don't have the consensus in the room to get to 13 (million dollars); we can probably stop trying to get to 13," Schusterbauer said during Wednesday's subcommittee meeting.
All the members of the subcommittee supported the process in which the projects were determined. However, there was a question of why the subcommittee was put in the place of having to decide on a February and a May vote with an $11 million difference.
A minority report, signed by tri-chair Jim O'Donnell, tri-chair Marie Haener-Patti, Deegan-Krause and Walt Herzig and read aloud to the subcommittee on Thursday and presented to the Operations Committee before the recommendation on Monday night, takes issue with the February voting date.
"Our position within this subcommittee is that the deck is stacked heavily against voter approval in February, and certainly of a larger amount of debt rather than a smaller amount," the report stated. "We believe that this reflects the preponderance of evidence, allied with common sense: in the context of an organized local anti-tax, anti-debt opposition, a bond election held on the date of the Republican Presidential primary faces long odds."
The report went on to state the process had highlighted possible deficiencies in district planning. "We hope that through better financial planning and analysis going forward, we can both choose more favorable election dates and have a more compelling written case for proposed projects when they are presented to the board, committees, and voters in the future," it stated.
The report also requested a discussion take place regarding planning for such an issue in the future. A meeting, Meier said Monday night that he and the district look forward to.
Regardless of the issues of voting date, it was clear that the four who were part of this report will support the projects in the bond. "All that said, we will support the bond effort by voting for it on Feb. 28 -- so if the Board decides to go forward, an elections committee can mark us down in the "yes" column as they get started," it stated.
At Monday's meeting, Meier went on to address the report presented as part of the subcommittee recommendation.
"All that aside, the bottom line for me is that these four individuals clearly want what is best for this school system," he said. "Notwithstanding whatever difference we had with this process, I'm confident in the community, the administration and this board that we'll pull together and come together and do what is best for the children of this district."
At this point, the subcommittee's job has been completed. A campaign committee will form made up of residents, parents, administrators, and faculty, independent of the subcommittee and the district, to promote and campaign for the school bond. Additionally, the board approved a bond oversight committee oversee bond expenditures in the event that the bond passes. Details on how, who and when these two committees will form are unavailable at this time.
Stay tuned to Ferndale Patch as we follow the school bond process. Look for a detail of the bond projects in the $22.8 million bond in an upcoming issue.