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Beline Obeid

Motion ends in tie, bond fails


August 01, 2013
A week after it appeared to reach a consensus on a 10-year technology bond, sold in two series, at an amount not to exceed $48 million, the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education on Monday rejected a proposal to submit the bond for the November ballot.

The motion ended in a 3-3 tie; per board policy, it's a failure for lack of a majority. President Joan Dindoffer, the decisive vote, was away on business.

"I feel tonight that we've done a 180-degree turn from where we were at last Monday," said Dan Roeske, vice president. "I thought that a majority of the board members at this table were consensed last Monday that a two-series bond was the approach to take, and I'm disappointed we weren't able to get it done tonight."

Administration is seeking a bond for much-needed upgrades to the district's infrastructure, its network, its security, its energy systems and its technology.

Monday's rejection means it's unlikely voters will see the bond on the November ballot.

After last week's committee of the whole meeting, concerns remained about the cost to taxpayers — at an average of 2.26 mills, the bond equates to an average of $339.60 a year on a $300,000 house (a taxable value of $150,000) — and if such costs were marketable.

But it appeared the board still favored the two-series, 10-year proposal, which includes a projected $33 million in upgrades in the first three years and $15 million in refreshes during the next seven years.

That changed Monday, when trustee Cindy Pangborn, after discussions with anonymous sources, brought forth another proposal for a 7-year bond at $20 million.

"I looked through this, and I'm having a real problem with the amount," Pangborn said. "I picked out some things, like I say, with experts, of what we had to have to get that security and that infrastructure started … that's under $20 million for what is absolutely necessary to get us up to speed."

Pangborn said the $20 million over seven years, according to accountants she spoke with, would net the district $6 million in interest savings, while maintaining the proposed upgrades.

Under the two-series, 10-year proposal, the district's financial advisor Ryan Bendzinski, of Bendzinski & Co. Municipal Financial Advisors, estimated a total debt service of $56,422,063, about $7 million in interest over the life of the bond.

"(The 7-year proposal) does not dilute the intent of where this bond proposal wanted to go," said Tom Jakubiec, who chairs the technology steering committee. "Maybe we need to consider, if there's an alternative that's viable, either tabling or rejecting this first proposal, and then calling a special meeting, which we've done many times, to give our administration a chance to look at those key pieces."

At a time when school districts around Michigan have looked or are looking to bonds for similar technology and infrastructure improvements, superintendent Tom Harwood, Roeske, and treasurer Judy Gafa said the district had spent months reviewing and scrutinizing over key pieces.

They said the 10-year proposal and projected per item expenditures were in line with those from districts such as Livonia, Northville, Fraser, Chippewa Valley and others.

Pangborn, Jakubiec and secretary Lois Valente still dissented against the bond. Instead, they challenged the technology steering committee, calling for a more careful financial analysis that includes input from the community rather than rushing a bond onto the November ballot.

"I think the new (7-year) proposal coming forward is indicative of the fact that we were not ready to approve the bond language, that the board itself, members of the board itself had not coalesced into a single, unified voice," Valente said.

"If it does not make it onto the November ballot, I don't have a lot of heartburn over that. Because, I think letting the pilots launch in the fall, seeing what happens with the fallout of the Detroit bankruptcy and taking a little bit more time to become a little more fiscally conservative ... or some type of more careful analysis of spending taxpayer money instead of 'Let's just collect everything that we can.'"

The committee is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, at the administration building at 389 St. Clair.

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