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Bob Maxey

Discussions on tech bond continue


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July 18, 2013
With 85 percent of the district's technology older than the elementary students using it and a network running at or exceeding capacity, the Grosse Pointe Public School System, superintendent Tom Harwood said, is currently in an ICU of technology.

"And our heart monitor's basically telling us, blood pressure's high and the heart's beating low, and we've got to get back into normalcy," Harwood said last Thursday during a meeting of the Technology Steering Committee of the GPPSS Board of Education.

To help make that return to normalcy, the Tom Jakubiec-chaired committee — which also includes Judy Gafa and Lois Valente — has discussed a possible technology bond proposal for the November ballot.

While all three members agree on the necessity of the bond, much of last Thursday's meeting centered on its duration, an issue of a 7-year bond of $40 million versus a 10-year bond at $47,685,000.

In terms of impact on community tax rates, the 7-year bond represents 2.57 mills, estimated at about $385.50 per year on a $150,000 taxable value, while the 10-year bond equals 2.23 mills, about $334.50 per year on the same taxable value.

"I think it's better for us to go to the community to take less out of their mindset of an annual or a bi-annual tax payment or a monthly budget, however they do that," Valente said of favoring the lesser yearly payments on the 10-year bond.

Jakubiec disagreed, arguing the 7-year bond shows more fiscal responsibility in the eyes of voters. "I personally am not in favor of a bond just to merely extend out years eight, nine and 10, just to make sure that money's available for things," he said. "To me, I'm having some heartburn with that."

Regardless of duration, the bond's purpose remains the same. It's a complete upgrade to the district's antiquated equipment and infrastructure — its security systems, classroom technology, computer labs, wireless network, media centers, private fiber network, printers and copiers, infrastructure and servers, digital TV and media support, telephones, software and energy.

Included in the initial upgrade is a 1:1 tablet rollout initiative, in which every student in the district will receive an iPad, Chromebook, netbook or Nook, depending on the recommendations from teachers and students piloting each device in the upcoming school year.

All of the upgrades occur during the first three years. Years four to seven or four to 10, depending on the proposal, are for device refreshes and similar system supports.

The 10-year proposal provides additional funding during the initial upgrade, as well as three more years for support and refreshes, something to consider given tech companies such as Apple's recent trends to introduce new devices bi-annually, rendering other models obsolete typically after three to four years.

"I guarantee you, we would rather be in a position to have money ready to jump on whatever technology's going to be available at that point in time instead of finding ourselves behind the eight ball, kind of like we are (last Thursday), looking to saying, 'Oh my gosh, we need more money,'" Gafa said. "I think it's much more proactive to have that money there and say, 'Look, we can buy the newest, best, whatever, most needed pieces for our kids so that they're not falling behind.'"

GPPSS isn't the only district turning to voters for technology funding. In May 2012, Ann Arbor voters approved a 10-year extension to a bond from 2004. The extension adds another .51 mills totalling $45.8 million.

Northville, Livonia and Plymouth-Canton districts also recently passed technology bonds.

In Midland, voters rejected a .9-mill proposal to raise $20.88 over 10 years.

The steering committee is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday, July 22, at the Brownell Middle School library.

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