Critics of a $222 million Farmington Public Schools bond issue proposal challenged officials at the close of an informational meeting held at North Farmington High Thursday, over the way questions were handled.
Officials and residents involved in facilities visioning and capital finance committees detailed the proposal that may end up on the Aug. 6 ballot. The visioning group originally proposed about $300 million in K-12 building upgrades, combining early childhood education into one facility and relocating Farmington Central High School students.
The early childhood and alternative high school proposals require more study, finance committee member Alan Maxey said.
Parent Trisha Balazovic said some have asked why the district's facilities aren't good enough for kids today. She said while she researched school reports by consulting encyclopedias, her 2nd grade son now gets accurate, current information from an iPad.
"By the time my daughter graduates ... there's a lot of things that could change," she said. "When we do this, we want to do it right, for the long haul."
During the half-hour presentation in the school cafeteria, audience members were told to reserve their questions for the end. When the time came, Assistant Superintendent David Ruhland directed them to tables in the back of the room. When some asked that questions be addressed as a group, Ruhland said the arrangement would allow officials to more effectively answer them.
Questioning bond amount, election date
Farmington Hills resident Matt Beer, a construction worker whose parents are public school teachers, accused officials of trying to fractionaize the opposition.
"I question the validity of $222 million," he said. "Given our current facilities, I don't see how retrofitting couldn't be done for less."
Pouring money into facilities diverts attention from declining academic performance, Beer said, adding that second world countries are outperforming the U.S. with tools that American schools have abandoned. "Education seems to be more of a social event now," he added.
Beer and Farmington Republican Club representative Bill Largent both questioned the proposed August 8 election, which they believe will result in lower turnout and waste tax dollars that could be saved by holding it in November.
"Obviously, we want what's best for educational outcomes," Largent said, "but we're concerned. This is a concept, and it's not a proven concept. There's no real demographic analysis."
Nick Waldecker of Farmington Hills said he was disappointed that opponents "didn't get a chance to speak to the community". He said he has a hard time wrapping his mind around spending $212 million, which he said amounts to $5,400 for every man, woman and child in the district.
"We didn't get a chance to speak out," he said.
Correction: The date for the proposed bond election was incorrectly reported in the original version of this article. It is August 6.