Farmington Schools Officials Narrowly Approve August Bond Election Date

With a 4-3 vote, officials send a $222 million bond question to voters on Aug. 6.

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." 

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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. 

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Michael Evangelista May 01, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Although schools, as did my children, I have never attend a Board of Education meeting until last night. What a disappointment. Citizens spoke out for over an hour, but they may as well been talking to the Man in the Moon. Not one speaker that spoke against the need of money to maintain school infrastructure or the need to give our kids a safe appealing environment. NOT ONE! The objections were clear. First, $225 is a lot of money! Detailed description of expenditures is not clear or well defined. Second, the 21 Century Concept is dubious at best. Where has this worked? Who has installed this in there system? "New Math" concept was a failure as was "New Reading" concept. Should we continue with unproven methods? As Joe Gromala pointed out, the record of performance for our schools is far less than it should be. Why can't we immolate what is working? Third, people want this election in November for all the obvious reasons. It was disappointing watching one of the female board members smirking smearing as citizens very professorially expressed their concerns. During the Boards commits, a long time members total discontent, discredited, and disrespected all of the audience participants.We should expect more from the leaders of our school system. Unfortunately, because of this Boards less than rational approach to the problems at hand, their lack of transparency, and arrogance, I think this bond proposal needs to be defeated and restructured. Michael Evangelista
Eric Vogel May 01, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Since this is not the Grosse Pointes where everyone is loaded with money. We should concentrate on maintaning the buildings to keep kids safe, improve education and forgo all this Google workplace environment that so many of us didnt have hand came out educated. Heck, no A/C when I was a kid in the buildings. Anyways, I am voting no till something better comes up that costs a ton less with maybe no bonds.
Sue Burstein May 01, 2013 at 05:47 PM
An eye opening event for many attending a board meeting for the first time, as a alluded to by a commentor. Some of us, though, know this is just the same old - same old. Mr. Wallach will continue to lecture the public on what "he believes" to be the truth and alluding to how we the pubic couldn't have an iota of rational thought on this - I mean just look at all of these studies he quoted. Mrs. Brouilette continues her smirking at comments, and Mrs. Bolsen continues to look down and refuse to look the public speakers in the eye. Mr. Garolla is a huge disappointment to many who thought maybe he would break from the group as a free thinker..but he has proven to just be another pack follower..no alpha dog there. And Mr. Reid, this time didn't have a lot to say...blessing us all with his almost silent acquiencense to whatever the Superintentdent tells him she wants. And finally, Sheilah Clay at least had the decency to make some salient points about interest rates and voted against an August election understanding that rushing this will have no effect on the cost of the bonds. I applaud her for stating why she voted no on the election date (unlike Mr. Wallach who had his reasons but never once told the community what those reasons were.) Yet, all 6 still represent group think & voted yes on a quarter BILLION dollar bond request in a district with an upcoming 7 MILLION operating deficit. One lone, no vote - and the Patch can't even get his reasons right.
Sue Burstein May 01, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Oh Art, please be careful what you say...afterall, the trolls on this site will be after you for defaming board members by calling them hucksters...seriously....I know. But then, what you say is so true. I mean they sit up their with their high and mighty - better than thou attitudes, yet when it comes to taking a little heat as an PUBLICALLY ELECTED officials, their panties get all twisted out of shape.
Sue Burstein May 03, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Hey Joni, the real surprise at this meeting was the former Mayor Jerry Ellis who slammed the board for their ill-conceived plan, told them to vote no, to go back to the drawingboard and give the community some specifics, timelines, etc. But true to form, not a peep from you when one of your side gets how absurd this bond issue is. Why would you have ignored the most intersting public commentator at the meeting?


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