Voters to decide on district enhancements May 5

The Ann Arbor School Board meeting Jan. 28.
The Ann Arbor School Board approved the ballot language at its Jan. 28 meeting.

Voters will be asked on May 5 to vote on a $33 million millage for district enhancements.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, trustees unanimously approved ballot language for the proposal, which would allow the district to borrow up to the current debt limit of $2.45 mills for 10 years to pay for such things as facility improvements, athletic fields, new busses, secure school entrances, furniture and window treatments to replace some that are as old as the buildings themselves.

Because of state funding cuts and an ailing economy, the district has not been able to make such infrastructural purchases in the past decade, and administrators made the case at a study session last week that now is the time.

Trustees agreed that it is important for the public to realize this is not a millage increase, and in fact the rate may even decrease.

The $33 million is an approximately what the renewal of $2.45 mills will generate over 10 years. It would be would be used as follows:

  • Purchase new buses
  • Secure entrances upgrades
  • Upgrade playgounds, improve safety and reducing maintenance costs
  • Refurbish softball and baseball fields
  • Upgrade performing arts venues
  • Purchase classroom furniture and window treatments, including shades to boost insulation

Trustee Christine Stead said the planning committee carefully wrote the bond to comply with state law and the Department of Treasury requirements, while being as easily understood as possible by voters.

“We’re asking our community to kind of stay the course,” said Stead, who called the proposal a win-win all around.

Stead said the board will carefully consider the results of Superintendent Jeanice Swift’s Continuing the Conversation series before refining the list of exciting enhancements that will resonate with the community.

Following last week’s study, Trustee Andy Thomas said there was some negative reaction to the purchase of window treatments, which he insists is necessary because of the age and condition of so many of them.

He said they are not at all a trivial item, but something needed to bring the schools up to what they need to be.

Swift said she wants to be a good steward of the physical environment both inside the schools and classrooms and outside on the fields.

“This evening we are considering the necessary component of a successful learning environment and the infrastructure that supports quality teaching and learning,” she said. “We’re so proud of the exceptional education that we offer in Ann Arbor Public Schools and yet the reality of the components of our infrastructure have gone without refurbishment due to several years of downturn in our fiscal ability to maintain them.”

Swift said she is proud of increased student achievement and enrollment, and exciting new programs, as well as the possibility of renewing, remodeling, and refurbishing while maintaining the same millage rate.

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