Palace Chrysler-Jeep

Officials expect solid turnout for bond vote

July 31, 2013 - Opponents and proponents of the Lake Orion Schools 2013 Bond Election August 6 are running around the community in last minute preparations.

All regular precincts will be open. Assigned precincts are identified on voter's registration cards or by a quick call to the Township clerk, with two special changes made and instated for this election.

Precinct 8, previously at Scripps Middle School, has been moved to the Orion Center on Joslyn Road. Precinct 9 previously at the CERC building will now be located at Scripps Middle School. Both changes are permanent location changes, effective this election and all future elections. Call 248-391-0304 for more information.

Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults is expecting the election to be very busy.

"We have close to 2,000 ballots that have been issued," she said. "We have a pretty steady stream of people coming in asking for an absentee ballot, people have come in every day, sometimes there are lines out the office."

The Orion Township office will be open this Saturday, August 3 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to issue absentee voter ballots. The last day to submit them is August 5.

Someone else has also been very busy.

"We are trying to put up signs, but as fast as we are putting them up they are being stolen," Jim Hare said. He is the treasurer of the Lake Orion Taxpayers Advisory Group, or TAG.

After spending $350 on the opposing signage, with an estimated 70 signs stolen, Hare is prepared to camp out and watch out for the thieves. TAG ordered more signs and will stake them in the day before and the day of the election.

"If they don't respect our freedom of speech, they don't respect the rule of law, they don't respect our right to have a different opinion," he said.

Despite opposing the bond, he gives the LO school board credit for being as honest and as transparent as they can.

"I respect Marion Ginopolis, and I respect the board. I just have a difference in opinion on how much they should borrow," he said.

Hare thinks the school board can cut more of their costs, such as operational costs for part-time employees, who could be working less than 32 hours a week in his opinion, or closing one of the schools instead of refurbishing it.

"It's time to do what the automobile company did and that's downsizing a little bit," he said.

Orion Township trustee Donni Steele said "I'm concerned about the debt load, and then I'm concerned that every time they run into debt they come back and have another bond issue put on the ballot," she said. "I would have hoped that the school would have been able to run effectively and efficiently without having to borrow more money, to spend less money and be able to run the same system."

She also has concerns about her future property taxes. "We are at about 25 percent of all our property tax, and this will just add on to that," she said.

Homeowners have about 15 years more of paying off current bonds for LOCS, with the special election adding an additional 20 years. "I don't know if the general public realizes that their property taxes are paying back these bonds," she said.

Of the $163 million of Lake Orion School's existing bond debt—not including the $33.2 million the special election is proposing— $55 million will be retired in the next four years.

"We refunded $24 million in existing debt in March 2012, that saves the taxpayers $6.1 million," Superintendent Ginopolis said.

Since 2000, LOCS has saved $20 million in operational costs.

Mary Jo Burchart, chairperson of Vote Yes LO Bond Committee and previous school board member is willing to spend a little extra money.

"Right now it seems like we are getting taxed every which way, but I really believe that this is a good reason. I will pay the extra gladly," she said.

"They've been really responsible in trying to pay that down, people are looking at that number right now and adding that [the $33.2 million] to it and that's not going to be the amount forever," she added. "For a couple of years it will look like that and then it will drop."

Burchart was on the school board for 12 years.

"I think it's really important that our students have the best education that they can using the best tools that they can so they can be the best citizens and employees that they can," she said.

Two of her children have been through the schools. "We can't do that with 12 year old computers and infrastructure that doesn't support technology," she continued.

Jeff Faber, President of the Lake Orion Education Association, said the teachers commend the school district for cutting as much cost as possible on the two proposals, which they believe are essential to maintain a strong district.

"If we don't stay on top of it we could collapse," he said. "If we are not going to be able to provide cutting edge services to our families they are going consider going somewhere else."

He said the schools have budgeted for improvements and repairs all along, but these are exceptional costs.

"Eventually we had to ask the community to help out," he said, referring to some of the really old buildings like Blanche Sims and Carpenter Elementary. "If taxpayers' property value drops by $30,000 because their schools stink, that would be even worse [than paying additional taxes]."

Burchart is convinced her house value will go up if the bond passes.

"Whenever the school district is sound and people talk up how great a school district is, people move in, and when there's demand, prices go up," she said.

The Vote Yes committee began putting signs out July 20, with almost 500 dotting the community. They plan on going to township events like the Big Rig Gig at Friendship Park and other community organized events before the special election August 6.

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