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Lake Orion will ask voters to approve bond proposal

May 29, 2013 - Lake Orion Schools will ask voters to approve a bond proposal this summer to secure funding for what officials say are critical building improvements, safety and security systems, instructional equipment and technology infrastructure expenditures.

School district residents will vote on the proposal during a special election on Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

According to Superintendent Marion Ginopolis, the bond is necessary because, in today's competitive public education environment, many of the proposed expenditures have been delayed too long and must be made now to keep the district among the best in Michigan. She said the state mandates specific times when bond elections can be held and the August date was selected because, if the bond passes, work on district buildings can begin immediately. New state-directed rules related to the school bond loan fund, and election law reforms also influenced the decision to conduct the bond election this year.

"Our schools have been one of the shining cornerstones of the Lake Orion community for many years, helping attract families, strengthen home values, lure businesses to locate here and, most importantly, nurture our young people," Ginopolis said. "This bond is critical to the long-term success of the district in attracting and retaining great families who want their children to benefit from a safe, sound and challenging learning environment."

Voters will have two bond options from which to consider. The first option covers projects deemed "essential" based on an evaluation of the district's needs and is valued at $28.7 million over a 19 ½-year bond term. The second option includes additional projects considered "enhancements", and is valued at $4.5 million over the 19 ½ -year bond term.

Ginopolis stressed all of the district's students will benefit from the bond. The improvements range from a variety of academic and fine arts program enhancements, to building and athletic field renovations, to technology and communications infrastructure upgrades, among others. "Whether your child is just starting kindergarten or is in high school, there's something for everyone in this bond proposal," Ginopolis said. "We're very confident that, managed properly, these projects will have a positive impact on the district and the ability of our educators to deliver superior educational opportunities for many, many years."

The proposal includes significant capital investments to several school buildings:

•Enhanced safety and security systems in all school district buildings based on recommendations from the Oakland County Sheriff's Office;

•Advanced classroom instructional equipment, proven to enhance learning and used by educators throughout the state. The goal is to outfit more Lake Orion classrooms with this equipment so all students can benefit from it;

•Roof renovations; heating and cooling, as well as electrical system updates; window and door replacements and other needs that will assure their top operational shape and significant, sustainable energy savings; much of this work will be done at several aging elementary schools built in the 1970s; and,

• Technology and communications infrastructure upgrades that enable the improved delivery of instructional resources mandated by new state "core curriculum" requirements.

The bond proposal also features replacement of computing hardware at several elementary and middle schools, much of which has been in place for 10-12 years, far exceeding the useful life of such assets, Ginopolis said. She stressed the bond repayment schedule is structured to pay for new technology early in the bond term, with funds allocated for future technology purchases to help avoid obsolescence issues.

"We must continue to diligently update our technology assets and systems to not only be on par with other leading districts but, more importantly, help all of our students take advantage of technology to learn in new ways," Ginopolis said. "This not only includes hardware, but the infrastructure systems needed to link computers and share information throughout all of the 13 district buildings."

Ginopolis said the bond funds can only be used for capital expenditures, rather than operational needs, such as payroll and other day-to-day expenses used to run the school district. In recent years, the district resorted to using general fund dollars to make short-term improvements to school buildings and purchase instructional equipment. Passing the bond will relieve significant pressure to tap into the general fund for such needs, Ginopolis said.

During the past decade, Lake Orion Schools has taken a number of steps to avoid, reduce and/or eliminate nearly $19 million in operational costs - $6 million over the past two years alone. These savings have been generated through staff reductions, restructured benefit programs, privatization of services, shared services/functions with other districts, the restructuring of debt and improved operational efficiencies.

Voters who may be out-of-town on August 6 for the bond election are encouraged to apply for an absentee ballot at the Orion Township offices on Joslyn Road.

More detailed information on the district's needs and proposed expenditures can be found on the Lake Orion Community Schools website, www.lakeorion.k12.mi.us. Informational meetings also will be held at the Lake Orion Community Schools administrative offices and other locations in the community this summer.

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