Saline Area Schools officials present proposed $22 million bond extension for facilities, infrastructure
Saline Area Schools officials made their case today at a community forum for a $22 million bond extension, detailing several projects the funds would make possible.
Superintendent Scot Graden and other school officials met with about 40 people at the Liberty School Media Center on Tuesday morning to discuss the proposed extension. Graden and Brian Marl, mayor pro tem for the city of Saline, presented several projects that would be funded by the $22 million bond extension up for a vote Feb. 22.
Graden said the bond extension would help keep school facilities and infrastructure at the level expected by the public, many of whom moved here to be in the district.
“Ultimately, it’s about our ability to attract and retain families and businesses" in Saline, he said. “Property values have declined over the last several years but they haven’t declined here to the same extent others’ have. People who move here, they choose Saline because of the school system. They go by the high school and say, ‘This is the community I want to live in.’”
The district is asking voters to approve a revamped version of the proposal rejected by voters in the 2010 primary election. The new proposal would add $22 million in new debt to the current $124 million bond by extending repayment six years from 2024 to 2030. The new proposal is for $6 million less than the bond proposal shot down in August.
The district will host another community forum about the bond proposal at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Liberty School Media Center, 7265 Saline-Ann Arbor Road. A video on the bond proposal and other information about the bond is available on the district’s website.
Graden said about 74 percent of the funds from the proposed bond extension would go toward what he termed “critical needs” in the district — building infrastructure improvements and energy updates to schools across the district. Funds from the bond proposal will also allow road construction projects at schools to improve traffic flow.
Marl said the traffic issues at some schools, like Saline High School, were becoming a problem for drivers on main roads near schools’ entrances and exits.
“I cannot emphasize enough how much of a public safety issue that is,” Marl said of the traffic. “Not only to the high school campus, but adjacent properties. I’ve gotten numerous calls from the Pittsfield Township county commissioner saying we need to do something about it, and we do.”
The bond proposal calls for no rise in the current 7-mill levy on the current bond, but extends the repayment for six additional years. The bond, which began in 2000, costs the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 about $700 yearly.
Supporters and opponents of the proposal were both well represented at the meeting.
Judy McCoy, a Saline resident who plans to vote against the proposal, said voters simply can’t afford any more taxes. She said the school district demonstrated need for the funds from the proposal but that money should not be given away based on need.
“In every instance when you give based on need, that is called Marxism, or socialism,” she said to a group of students who were in attendance. “You’re not old enough to be alive in the times of the Soviet Union, but it went down and it went down hard.”
The proposed bond would also fund the purchase of 12 buses for the district’s fleet, Graden said. According to school officials, 80 percent of the district’s bus fleet is more than 10 years old.
Graden said the age of the fleet was one of the reasons the district did not join the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s busing consortium last year. He said the buses need to be replaced regardless of how the purchase ends up being funded.
“Avoiding the cost of new buses is not an option,” he said. “We’re going to have to pay for them.”
Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.