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Committees Pave the Way for Farmington Schools Bond Referendum

Three groups of residents, parents, students and district staff examine facility needs.

The Farmington Public Schools Capital Finance Team recommended the $222 million bond referendum. Photo credit: Farmington Public Schools website screenshot
The Farmington Public Schools Capital Finance Team recommended the $222 million bond referendum. Photo credit: Farmington Public Schools website screenshot
On Aug. 6, Farmington school district voters will decide whether to approve a $222 million bond for improvements and repairs touching every building in the district. Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch looks at how we got here, what's on the ballot, what's happening in neighboring districts and what officials plan to do with all that money.

First, a little history. 

Four years before Farmington Public Schools officials voted in April to put a $222 million bond referendum on the Aug. 6 ballot, a team of 27 district residents began gathering information about, among other things, the condition of the district's buildings.

In 2010, officials approved one of Facilities Study Committee recommended options to close four elementary schools and the Maxfield Training Center. They also identified about $100 million in needed repairs to the remaining buildings and grounds. 

The Facilities Forward committee, appointed in June of 2012, identified about $300 million in improvements, including reconfigured classrooms, technology improvements and tighter security in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut. 

"Sandy Hook really changed the landscape for safety and security," school and community relations director Diane Bauman said. The proposals, she said, "add another layer of security" to K-12 buildings. 

The Capital Finance committee whittled the $300 million down to $222 million by eliminating plans to centralize early childhood programs, relocate Farmington Central High School students, reconfigure the administrative center, Ten Mile Building and transportation area and create a community center.

In all, district facilities manager Jon Riebe said, three community groups have been involved in the years leading up to the referendum. "They've all had input through the entire process," he said.

Who served on those committees? The Facilities Study team included 23 district residents, four district staffers and a facilitator. Four high school students, 13 parents and three community residents served with 15 staff members on the Facilities Forward committee, and five parents, one community member and 10 school staff on the Capital Finance committee. 

Board member George Gurrola was part of the Facilities Forward and Capital Finance committees. 

Riebe said a community survey conducted as part of the Capital Finance team's work showed 62 percent of residents would support a capital bond referendum, 41 percent showed strong support. Nearly 60 percent said they would support an annual property tax increase of $120 or higher.

Officials say owners of average priced homes in Farmington and Farmington Hills will pay less than that, if the referendum passes. 

Next: What's on the ballot and how much will it cost? 

Correction: The amount of the bond was incorrectly reported in the original version of this story. 
Don June 18, 2013 at 09:47 AM
The problem is we can't afford it. Do you think our incomes have risen over the last 5 years? This economy affects all of us just like it affects you. We gave you the money last time for the athletic fields, now you want more. This time I'm voting no. I still believe we are bloated at the administration level, test scores continue to decline and from what I have seen at North Farmington High School, I can't say as I support the direction the Administration is taking the schools. As I stated in the last article, to me we need to reduce the administration of the schools. Lets go back to the days when the Principals ran their buildings and the teachers ran their classrooms. Do we really need a district maintenance person? Why can't the maintenance people report to the Principal? We don't need reading curriculum people at the federal, state county and local levels. Let the Teachers teach! Let them figure out how to teach their students! Seriously, why do we need curriculum people at all those levels. The State can set the standards and the teachers can reach them. Administration offices are what is bloated in our budgets. Maybe it's time we explore things like just county administrations?
Michael Evangelista June 18, 2013 at 08:41 PM
I took the survey. Questions were bias and slanted, they trapped you into the answers they wanted. It reminded me of getting a sales pitch from a used car salesman. Question: do you want good facilities for you kids(example). Who would say no? This bond issue is a sham
Trisha Balazovic June 20, 2013 at 11:29 AM
Don - you make many valid points regarding the many levels of bureaucracy; unfortunately, many of those things are requirements of the federal and state governments in order for our schools to receive full funding per student. I fully agree with your comment about letting the teachers teach. Passing this bond will give the teachers the necessary tools they don't currently have to teach all of students, regardless of learning style, at the same time. I have personally spoken with many of our elementary teachers who have shared with me that they are making due with what they have, but if they had the appropriate tools, they could be more effective and efficient with each lesson. To me it makes sense that that would relate to improved achievement for our students. This bond would cost the average tax payer $7-$9 dollars a month. I understand that most families have already had to pull back on the nice to haves over the past few years, I believe that finding an additional $7 to $9 dollars over the course of a month is doable for most families.
Sue Burstein June 20, 2013 at 01:38 PM
Detroit News against Bond Issue.http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130619/OPINION01/306190007/1007/OPINION01/Bond-issue-too-broad-costly
Sue Burstein June 20, 2013 at 01:39 PM
The Farmington Public School District has a $222 million bond proposal that looks great on paper, and a website full of information that is fashioned to convince residents to vote “yes.” But a closer look at the issue, scheduled for a vote Aug. 6, suggests this proposal is not right for the district. Those opposed to the ballot issue, which would raise taxes 1.44 mills for 25 years, have legitimate concerns about its scope, how the money will be managed and if the current board of education has looked deeply enough at future needs, particularly with the district’s declining enrollment. There’s no doubt about the school system’s aging buildings and infrastructure needs. But basic facility upgrades are only 23 percent of the entire project, according to school website information. Safety improvements account for 8 percent. The balance is 50 percent for “learning environment” and 19 percent for “technology enhancements.” Here is where the proposal needs significant revamping. The school district says the current proposal is the result of a year-long study and multiyear facilities analysis involving many different local groups. But officials need to be more inclusive of taxpayers. No one is arguing the school buildings don’t need work but realistic improvements are called for, not an investment of millions of dollar in decor upgrades that give no guarantee of improved learning.
John Haapala August 02, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Why does the School Board continue to insist that throwing money at our schools is "the solution" to increase the effectiveness of teaching and subject mastery, thus higher student results? How many times have we been down this road before? This instilling of "fear" among the public that our schools are substandard because of lack of money is getting old and tiresome ... enough is enough! Start setting higher expectations for everybody, including students and for sure our School Board
John Haapala August 02, 2013 at 05:09 PM
The unanswered questions continue … Following up on what Don stated above, has anybody ever done any detailed research on what our Farmington School Board actually gets paid along with their benefits and retirement packages? Is there a fixed compensation budget going forward for the Board? How much of the school taxes that we pay currently that will be freed up (available) if this bond passes, will be used for additional compensation and benefits for administration? Another question if anybody has the answer …Does our School Superintendent for the Farmington School District actually get paid around $250,000 annually, plus heath care and retirement? If this is true, how does this happen and go unnoticed under the radar – it must be high for the national average. Anybody have the facts on this?
FHVoice August 07, 2013 at 09:53 AM
"has anybody ever done any detailed research on what our Farmington School Board actually gets paid along with their benefits and retirement packages?" - Really? You're kidding. Benefits? To any school board member: care to itemize the HUGE salary packages you get? (I'm not surprised that SBK didn't post an answer. As the wife of one, surely she knows.)
Sue Burstein August 07, 2013 at 09:58 AM
Happy to answer...didn't see that someone asked. They get $30 a Board meeting they. That's it. Doesn't include special meetings like budget, closed, etc. So what? I doubt anyone is in it for the money at that rate. And FH...if you are so freakin' smart, why don't you answer some of these peop'ss' questions and concerns? You have not put out a single bit of info. Just like now, throw it back to me as a way to to insult. Wow! Stay Classy! Well, folks, for those of you new to this Board, this is what I have to deal with. FH suddenly showed up in posts a couple of days ago...no clue who they are as they are too cowardly to post under their real name.
FHVoice August 07, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Hope you have some cheese to go with that whine, Sue Burstein-Kahn. I smiled broadly when I read "if you are so freakin' smart". Why should I pose as an expert on school board compensation when an authoritative source is so readily available and clearly has the energy to type what seems like megabytes of posts? That is throwing "it back to me as a way to to insult"? You flatter yourself. If you read the post, I wrote " To any school board member: care to itemize the HUGE salary packages you get?". Don't blame me that you have appointed yourself as an ex officio member of the school board and felt compelled to answer. " this is what I have to deal with"? Really? Again, I really do hope you have some cheese to go with that whine, Sue Burstein-Kahn; it seems you are dipping a bit deep into the goblet this morning.
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 12:07 PM
I've left this note on other threads, and it applies here as well: We welcome your comments, but please refrain from personal comments about other Patch users and stick to discussing the issues. Thanks!
David Anderson August 08, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Incorrect - "In 2010, officials approved one of Facilities Study Committee recommended options to close four elementary schools and the Maxfield Training Center." The FST did not make this recommendation, nor did it formally present this option. This was created and championed only by the BOE.

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