After listening to more than an hour of testimony on Tuesday, Farmington Public Schools board members voted 4-3 to put a $222 million bond issue in front of voters on Aug. 6.
Board members Sheilah Clay, Howard Wallach and Murray Kahn voted against the measure; Frank Reid, Priscilla Brouillette, Karen Bolsen and George Gurrola voted in favor.
Clay and Wallach both said they support the bond, but wanted the election held in November – as did residents who testified during public comment taken before the vote. Kahn said the visioning and capital finance committee plans left out Farmington Central High School, early childhood education and administrative facilities.
"To go out and ask for a vote right now is wrong, because it's not a complete plan," he said.
Most critics supported about $90 million for needed repairs to K-12 buildings and measures to improve security, but drew the line at proposals to create more collaborative and project-based learning spaces. The August date was also criticized, because of an expected low voter turnout and the estimated $65,000 cost to the district.
While he said he supported past millage requests, former Farmington Hills Mayor Jerry Ellis said the plan is "bad for our community." He said officials should provide the public with information about what was done with the last millage and questioned why officials couldn't wait another 90 days for a vote, when the plan would take six to nine years to implement.
"If you can't convince me, this thing is in trouble," he said. "I suggest you rethink it."
Joseph Gromala of Farmington Hills wasn't convinced of the need, no matter what the date. He said the district's results on state standardized tests are in the middle of the pack among what he called "comparable districts", while Farmington's per pupil expenditures and superintendent's salary are among the highest.
"If I was a shareholder (in a business), and the board came to me and said we want to borrow an extremely large sum of money, I would ask where are the results," he said.
Others were skeptical of whether reconfiguring learning environments would improve student performance. Wallach countered by reading from studies included in the visioning committee's report that showed strong links between building condition, community support and student performance.
Gurrola said he worked on the district's 2009 facilities committee, and that group's last recommendation was to develop a long-term capital improvement plan.
"This is the culmination of that work," he said, "and it will be completely consistent with what that committee concluded."
The district has until the end of May to certify the bond question for the August 6 ballot.
- Bond Critics Frustrated Over Format of Farmington Schools Informational Meeting (Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch)
- Committee Recommends $222 Million Bond on Farmington Schools August Ballot (Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch)
- Facilities Forward steering committee report and meeting minutes (Farmington Public Schools website)
- Capital Finance Task Team report (Farmington Public Schools website)