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Three bonds, one vote, $20 million proposed by school administration

by Wendi Reardon

December 14, 2011

Clarkston Community Schools administration recommended the Board of Education approve a $20 million bond for the May 2012 election at their Dec. 12 meeting.

The board will now review and finalize the bond list presented to them, which cut $3 million from a list presented Nov. 30.

The list still focuses on building construction, bringing it down to $3.4 million, from the original proposed $6.3 million, and technology for $10.4 million, up from the $8.5 million proposed last month.

"It is good," said Steve Hyer, board treasurer. "We have looked at the list in a way to prioritize what the needs are."

The non-qualified bond would raise the current millage rate 1.15 mill, bringing it up to 8.15 mills. The district would receive the funds over a course of six years, receiving $10 million in 2012, $5 million in 2015, and the remaining $5 million in 2018.

"It would be three bonds with one vote," said Anita Banach, human resources executive director, explaining receiving the money at three different periods will allow the district to sustain projects and technology needs over a 11-year period.

"Five years from now, I know we are going to need technology upgrades," Hyer agreed. "It gives us time to plan, to know we have the funds available."

Banach added it would fulfill the items on the capital needs list with the bond, addressing student learning, global access for all students, technology infrastructure and address student and staff safety needs.

The administration asked for any questions or discussion the board had that they could bring back to the next meeting to help the board decide.

Trustee Rosalie Lieblang requested looking at the fiscal year 2011 actual audit, compared to where they are right now for the 2012 fiscal year. She added the numbers showed a $2 million increase in the back offices' accounts.

"Before we ask the public for more money, we need to make sure we are reducing as much as we can," she said.

Trustee Susan Boatman voiced the concern of what would happen if the district would be unable to make payments on the bond. With a qualified bond, they would be able to borrow from the state; with unqualified, they wouldn't.

Communication and transparency was key for board Vice President Elizabeth Egan. She requested the administration provide the community a better understanding with what the district has passed in the past.

"Maybe a recap of what we have done," she added. "Where was the money? Then, show them the capital needs list and what is new."

Trustee Joan Patterson wanted more communication as well as, in particular, more detail on items on the capital needs list.

"We went line by line," said board President Cheryl McGinnis, referring to a group made of board members, staff, community members and administration. "Most things didn't jump on the list. They are getting to their life expectancy and they are put on the capital needs list. Right now the list is what it is. When money is available, they fix it. We do not have the money to fix it every year. The list is a living document."

Wes Goodman, operations executive director, also pointed out items might be a top priority but if something else comes up and needs to be fixed right away, they have to spend the money from their budget on that, first.

The next step for the board is review and finalize the bond list. The administration will also bring back any additional information the board needs to make their decision.

"We can go to the community and ask if this is what they want," said Hyer. "A vote gives them a chance for everyone to give their voice. We can't take care of capital needs from general fund and keep class sizes the way they are. I want to move forward and do what is right for kids."

If passed, taxpayers would fully repay the 2018 bond in 2033.

The next board of education meeting is 7 p.m., Jan. 9, 6389 Clarkston Road.