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Bond proposal pushes forward

Paul Bemis, of French Associates, explains how to run a successful bond campaign. Photo by Megan Collier (click for larger version)
October 13, 2010 - Putting the cart before the horse.

The phrase was uttered by more than a few community members after school officials held a bond proposal informational meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 6. There, associates from Barton Malow and French Associates, construction management and architect firms, schooled the audience on how to hold a successful bond campaign.

That was, of course, until the audience took over the meeting.

Twenty minutes into a presentation given by Paul Bemis of French Associates, Lake Orion parent Denise Mitchell raised her hand and said, ""I'm kind of confused as to why I'm here. I thought I was coming here to help on a bond issue, but you've already decided on what you want to go for, you've already decided the cost, you've already set your (committee) chairs."

Mitchell asked if anyone else in the audience was confused, and most of the room nodded heads, raised hands or spoke up in agreement.

Melissa Miller, another Lake Orion parent, framed the issue when she asked which will come first: getting together a bond campaign or figuring out exactly what the bond will pay for.

The answer? Both will happen at the same time.

"The bond language will have enough flexibility in it that we can run these two things simultaneously," said Jillynn Keppler, assistant superintendent of administrative services.

Miller added, "The important thing is that if we don't pass it, it won't matter what details we've got we're not going to have the money to spend, period."

"But we also know that, without detail we won't be able to explain to our community what's going on," said Margaret Hazlett, executive director of human resources.

The most important issue to note is that the bond will be for basic necessities, said Keppler.

"We're not going for things that might have added benefit to the district but aren't needed," she said.

Going for a bond that includes safety and security updates, new technology, new buses and building refurbishing will be about $25.5 million or a millage increase of 1.75 mills, according to school officials.

A mill is the equivalent of $1 per $1,000 of taxable value. So, for example, if a home's taxable value is $100,000, passing the bond would equate to a $175 tax increase. The current levy on tax payers for schools is 7.491.

Spreading out the $25.5 million for district needs goes something like this: $2.3 million for safety and security measures, $14.9 million for updated technology, $3.1 million for new buses, $2.3 million for building refurbishing and $2.9 million for fees and other costs.

The categories and dollar amounts are "broad brush strokes," said Hazlett. "There's a lot of detail that still has to be filled in, so there's still much opportunity for help and assistance in that area. We're just trying to lay out what the components are."

(Those interested in committee work should contact Julie Olko at 248-693-5414

Those components, said Keppler, were set by the district's strategic planning finance subcommittee made up of community members and staff over the summer.

Dollar estimates came from bond consultants after going over ideas from the finance subcommittee.

Feb. 22, 2011 is set as the election date, with campaigning starting 14 weeks back on Nov. 16. Between now and Nov. 16, committees will work on bond details, said Hazlett.

According to Paul Stauder, of Stauder Barch, an advisory firm with which the district has worked in the past on other bond issues, the community should vote on the bond proposal in February before tax values decline to 2011 levels; this will ultimately save district residents money.

Waiting until 2011 values kick in, in May, means a much larger mill increase when seeking the same bond amount.

The bond election in February comes in addition to the board election in May when four seats will be up for grabs. The district will foot the bill for both elections. Each election will cost over $30,000, according to school officials.

School Board President Mary Jo Burchart said holding two elections might be a tough pill to swallow for district residents, but the difference in millage levies between holding it in February and May makes a February election "the only option we have."

"Otherwise we would have to ask folks to pay more money," she said.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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