August 08, 2013The Technology Steering Committee of the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education reconvened Thursday, Aug. 1, to seek alternative, more fiscally marketable technology bond options after a 10-year, $48 million proposal failed by a 3-3 vote days earlier.
"It's very critical that we have something to take forward, back to the whole board, that will get us moving in a direction, whether it be the original bond proposal or whether it be an alternative," said committee chair Tom Jakubiec.
He, along with Cindy Pangborn and Lois Valente, rejected the $48 million proposal, mostly from fear of it not meeting community approval on November's ballot due to the high annual cost to taxpayers, a large portion of who, they said, are on fixed incomes.
A $48 million proposal, at two series over 10 years, had an estimated cost of 2.26 mills, or $339.60 a year on a $300,000 house (a taxable value of $150,000). It's in addition to the 56.8 mills or more community members already pay annually. Of that, 10.07 mills are for Hold Harmless (7.32), school debts (1.75) and the district's sinking fund (1.0), according to tax records located through Grosse Pointe cities' websites.
"We can't build in dependencies on bonds and millages (at the community's expense) at such a high rate," Valente said during Thursday's meeting, adding later that, despite the need for $48 million in technology and infrastructure support, she wants a proposal at a millage rate of 1.99 or lower.
For a 7-year bond, it equates to about $30 million and a roughly estimated cost of about $285 a year to taxpayers.
"If that gets us to the point where, as a board and as a community, there's consensus that this is the right thing to do, and it's the best thing to do for our students, and it gets us moving forward, we will take a look at that," said district superintendent Tom Harwood.
Harwood spent the last week with administrators and financial advisors to review the new proposal and reconfigure estimates on upgrade expenditures.
Any new or current proposals, board treasurer and committee member Judy Gafa said, has to achieve three things: not short-change students, include honest cost estimates for taxpayers and those costs have to get the district where it needs to be in technology upgrades, infrastructure and network improvements and energy and security system upgrades, so future boards won't have to rely on returning to the community for another proposal in 7 to 10 years.
But ultimately, she said, the board has to first approve a proposal to give voters a chance to decide the best option for the district.
"We keep talking about the voters; we've yet to give the voters a voice," said Gafa. "We're not trusting them to make their mind up about what they think is best for this district."
The board has until August 26 to reach a consensus on a proposal and submit ballot language in time for November's election.
Jakubiec and the tech committee met again Wednesday, Aug. 7, to review reconfigured estimates and determine the best and most marketable proposal option to bring forth to the board as a whole.