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Posted on Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

Saline Area Schools announces two community forums on bond proposal set for February vote

By Kyle Feldscher

Saline Area Schools is holding two public forums for community members to learn more about the $22 million bond proposal on the ballot Feb. 22.

Superintendent Scot Graden announced the forums will be held at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 1 and at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7, both at the Liberty School Media Center, 7265 Saline-Ann Arbor Road.

Graden said the district is planning to share information about the goals of the proposal, the length of the bond rate extension and the impact of the proposal on the 2011-12 budget.

The bond is a revamped version of the proposal rejected by voters in the 2010 primary election. The bond would add $22 million in new debt to the current $124 million bond by extending repayment by six years, from 2025 to 2031. The new proposal is $4 million less than the previous proposal.

According to the language of the bond proposal, the funds generated will be used for remodeling, furnishing, equipping school buildings, installing new technology in schools, acquiring school buses and developing and improving playgrounds and building sites.

Graden said in November that about 85 percent of the bond would be used for building and site improvements in the district and 15 percent for technology and busing.

Homeowners in the Saline school district are paying taxes on the current bond, which began in 2000, until 2025. The bond now costs the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 about $700. The 7-mill rate would continue if the bond is extended.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at



Mon, Jan 17, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

If they held the election in May, it is doubtful that voters would vote yes to both the WISD renewal and the Saline bond. They have a much better chance of getting it passed in February.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 9 p.m.

"Once again, the money can't be used for salary and benefits." Correct me if I'm wrong.....isn't money from the general fund used for salary and benefits? Money from the general fund that could be used for these improvements? Thus....the amount needed for the bond extension is now HIGHER because funds you could have used from the general fund are being used for salaries and benefits. Indirectly, this bond extension IS paying for salaries and benefits. Typical smoke and mirrors money shell game.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

The questions are: do we believe this School Board can be trusted with spending this additional money in a responsible manner, or have they already spent more than they bring in and are only asking for more money because they can't live within the money they already have? Do we believe that these monies which will be used for technology improvements should be paid off over 20 years when the technology will be obsolete within 5? Do we believe that the school buses that are now being requested should be paid out of the general fund rather than having the School District pay 100% of the cost of Health Premiums for teachers out of these funds instead. (If we charged the teachers the same percent of premium as is paid by every other home, not associated with the school distict it would mean we could pay for these buses out of these funds.) Seems like if we hold off on the buses for another year and force the School Board to confront the SEA (finally) to become in pariety with the people who pay their salaries, we as a community will have sent a very strong message to this School Board (again) to live within your budget and prioritize your needs with a focus on our students first, and then everyone else. And maybe next time, Saline Mom, you can work with the School Board to make sure they cost out the contracts they commit us to, rather than approving contract's that we can't afford. With all of your energy to protect their mistakes, why not use the same energy to help them figure out how to work with the money they have? How about starting with asking them to save $15 - 19,000 and move the vote to May? Seems like a good start to me.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 8:30 a.m.

@salinedad "Our community needs leaders it can trust and not just those who can use "tricks" to get short term gains to protect special interests." So, those "special interests" would be remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, and equipping and re-equipping school buildings; acquiring and installing educational technology in school buildings; acquiring school buses, and developing and improving playgrounds and sites? Once again, the money can't be used for salary and benefits. So get over the SEA thing until it is resolved by 2012. Like I said, get an absentee ballot, not that hard.


Fri, Jan 7, 2011 : 11:09 p.m.

SalineMom, So the one time funds will keep Saline out of a negative fund balance, so what trick will be used for next year? (If you follow the cash flow of the district, it has been in a continuous decline since 2007 because the collective bargaining agreement expenses exceed the revenue of the district.) As it relates to "strive", if you are like one of the Board members who feels you can violate the trust of the community by being the first Board in the history of Saline to allow for us to got into insolvency, over wordsmithing the charter then you must be of the "it depends on what "it" means school of thought. It didn't work for our President for maintaining his credibilty, I would encourage our leaders to not make this same mistake, for once trust is broken, your ability to effectively lead is over. Our community needs leaders it can trust and not just those who can use "tricks" to get short term gains to protect special interests. As it relates to the 22nd, folks will be still on travel, (which is what some on the Board have said they are counting on), so they can "sneak it by". Why not move the vote to May, when it will not cost anything and folks will be around to vote on it? Seems like taking that sort of action is representing the interests of the entire community and not just the special interests.


Fri, Jan 7, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

@Salinedad The polls are open until 8:00 pm and the 23rd is a school day, I would suspect most families would be back in town. Absentee ballots are easy to get as an alternative. In regards to the school board and the reserve, apparently you missed the budget update during the December meeting. Looks like the EDU funds that were distributed will help to balance the budget this year and the reserve should remian at acceptable levels. The policy isn't real specific - uses words like "generally" and "strives". Doesn't say "must". Also at that meeting it sounded like they were going to "swap" the bonds again to save interest again and reduce the payback. As far as the August vote - 48.59% Yes to 51.41% No - isn't what I would call "clear" as you suggest.


Thu, Jan 6, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

Good catch Saline Mom, your right about last summer, same reason why a May special election makes sense, it would cost nothing to put this in the same election as the Special Ed. election. Per the Supt. it costs Saline nothing for the ISD vote. It also would not be at the same time as the four day weekend that Saline Schools has which means many Saline residents will be out of town on the day of the vote. Funny how the timing of things just happen that way some times.... As it relates to the SEA contract, it will be interesting to see how this develops, as I recall the budget, Saline will be below its threshold limit for reserves this year, putting the district into a default situation, meaning that the Board of Education is in violation of it's charter and who knows what happens next. As it relates to the vote, it appears that we are paying $1 million per year in interest for $1 million per year in funding, with the deal working based on cash flow management, seems like that is how Saline got in the mess it has...oops.... Hopefully next time, the Board of Education will give the Supt. a budget figure to bring the contract in under rather than having NO costing of the SEA contract and them allowing the Supt to ink the contract without first reviewing the deal with the Board or have a costing of the contract before committing itself to a contract it can't afford....oops.... So why do we have confidence that this Board is effectively overseeing the management of the District? So how will giving them more money address these gaps in the governance of the District? Seems like a pause and a long think is necessary before a knee jerk reaction to this matter. It was clear in August how the community felt about this matter, but maybe is it like having a 5 year old, if they just keep asking for the money eventually people will say, fine just go away...and is that any way to run things....something to consider.


Thu, Jan 6, 2011 : 10:23 p.m.

@stunhsif "Then I suggest the school board immediately bring the SEA to the table and start playing hardball." I guess I need to understand - how are you going to do that? They have a signed contract that ends in June of 2012. You can't force them to open the contract - you have to honor that contract.


Thu, Jan 6, 2011 : 8:24 a.m.

Salinemom said: "The SEA contract will be dealt with in time, but the other needs are immediate." Then I suggest the school board immediately bring the SEA to the table and start playing hardball. The money they need can be found there. I for one will vote no until that happens and as others have stated, it is wrong to pay for todays technology 20 years from now.


Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

@Salinedad " beyond the $15,000 already spent last August," There was NO money spent by the district in August - it was a state wide primary election. @stunhsif "The high school is a joke, it is a complete waste of taxpayer money." We've been down this road before on these blogs - the high school is what it is, built in different times - it will last forever. Get over it and move on. What do you propose, we tear it down and build something "sensible"? What is sensible right now is to maintain what you have since replacement is not cheap. The SEA contract will be dealt with in time, but the other needs are immediate.


Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

I will vote yes on this bond proposal if the teachers agree to paying into their healthcare what we in the private sector pay, period. The money the school district needs can be found in negotiating a new contract with the teachers that includes freezing pay for a period of a year or two, having teachers pay at least 15% of their healthcare premiums, changing step raise increases, and moving new teachers into 401K's rather than the defined pension benefit and getting rid of healthcare till they die. Until the teachers give back, I will vote no on any bond or millage requests. The high school is a joke, it is a complete waste of taxpayer money. The high school is like a Hummer H2 with gas at 6 bucks a gallon.

Jill S

Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 5:52 a.m.

Cutting sports sounds good on a blog, but the reality is that people will send their kids to schools that do have it and Saline will lose more than any savings. If Saline cuts sports, to make a point I would welcome the 100's of student-athletes to AAPS. Our swim teams would get back on top! As SalineMom said we may not agree, but it's reality. Look at the RichRod coverage, sports are a big deal around here.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 10:08 p.m.

@salinesal "It has absolutely nothing to do with students and everything to do with a certain group of people making more money." If you are implying the SEA, then you should understand that none of the bond money can be used for salaries and benefits. There are very restrictive uses - generally infrastructure, buses, technology, etc. "It is time for the Saline Tax Payers to force the Saline School District to be more frugal and make more of the hard choices that need to be made." I'm just wondering if you've looked at the budget and how long you've been in the district? When we first moved here, there were multiple administrators in every building and a house full of central office staff, and spending galore. I don't see that anymore. The only budget busting item is the SEA contact and good luck getting the SEA to agree to open that before it is up. To those who want to get rid of athletics. Consider the fact that most of the best athletes will probably leave the district. So what you save in budget, you will lose in state fund dollars. No savings there. Good athletic programs are as much, if not a bigger draw, as educational programs - sad but true. Remember when freshman football was cancelled? If it had been freshman algebra, maybe 2 people would have cared.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 8:16 p.m.

Without credit and debt most of you would not have a job. I say vote in the bond proposal. Better now than later when it's more expensive.

David Parker

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

let's see, interest on $22M is what about $1M per year. for short term stuff, Saline Schools get long term debt. Ouch.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Make no mistake...this is a tax INCREASE of 22 MILLION DOLLARS. It is five year loan that gets paid back in period between fifteen to twenty years from now. By that time all the stuff the money bought will be long gone and in a landfill or junkyard somewhere. Anyone that says that is a good deal would have to suspend reality and certainly should never apply for a job in business or banking. Anyone that thinks this is a "good deal" unfortunately must be a "victim" of the same educational system that this loan is supposed to help. Maybe that's why public schools don't really teach economics, so that they can easily con the future public school graduates out of their money. The only people that could possibly be in favor of this bogus tax scheme (and it is a scheme) are the people that stand to directly and immediately profit from it. It has absolutely nothing to do with students and everything to do with a certain group of people making more money.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.

It is a fact that there is no relationship between the amount of money spent on a student in the public educational system and the resulting intelligence of that child. If spending more money on education resulted in a better education, then the graduates produced by cities like Washington D.C, Newark NJ, St.Louis MO, and Detroit MI, would all be geniuses. I submit that the mentioned school districts spend the most money per student and produce some of the worst educational outcomes in America. Why is it that public educators always use our children as a weapon to extract more money for themselves from the tax payers? The quality education of the Saline students has more to do with the families they come from, than the schools they attend. It is and always will be strong families and good parenting that sets the stage for a good education. If the Saline schools start with a good product going in, then it will produce a good product going out. It's that simple. I submit that there are great lessons in teaching our children about financial responsibility. Teach our children how a school district can live within its means without having to constantly go into more debt. Stop threating parents with the risks that our children are potentially unsafe from riding on delapatated school buses. These are just tired and unjustified scare tactics. Few would deny that the recent closing of two unneeded schools was the right choice to make.There are other hard choices that need to be made. These hard choices will only be kicked down the road for another day if this bond issue is allowed to pass. There is plenty of money to run the Saline Schools and provide a quality education. Maybe the schools don't need the all the gizmo's and gadgets that they want. Maybe like most of us taxpayers who can't get a raise in pay, the Saline Schools can learn to balance their budgets and do more with less like the rest of us. Maybe some of the wealthier families can donate more to the schools instead of taking advantage of a system that taxes the poorer residents to provide an education to the more well-off students. It is time for the Saline Tax Payers to force the Saline School District to be more frugal and make more of the hard choices that need to be made. They have borrowed and spent more than enough and continuous borrowing from the future must now end. Don't let them borrow 22 million more dollars. Vote No on the millage proposal. We just can't afford it.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 10:54 a.m.

If folks go to the Saline School District website, the Supt, has provided some additional details that might be of interest to folks. For example, this second vote will cost another $15-19,000 beyond the $15,000 already spent last August, and if the bond proposal was added to the May ISD special mileage for Special Education, it would cost Saline nothing to add this second topic to the vote. Saline teachers pay nothing toward the cost of the premium for Health Care, the support staff pay 25% of the cost of health coverage and the Administators pay 15% toward the cost of Health Care. According to the Supt. if all staff paid 25% of the cost of the Health care premium, it would be $1.4 million in additional funding available to the District. This 25% premium sharing is what most others pay for Health coverage. These funds would be available for use right away and not needed to be repaid over 25 years. All that is needed is for the respective parties to agree to this change. A change that will only move Saline into pariety with others in the community. Seems like we have others options that should be considered first before asking the community to fund more than is being provided today. Saline is a great school district, with many dedicated teachers, hard working staff but it also has very hard working students and dedicated parents, parents who have lost jobs, taken pay cuts and lost homes. Seems like priorities need realignment....


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 10:09 a.m.

The athletic budget of nearly 1 million dollars needs to be explained before a yes vote from this taxpayer. This is largely general fund money that could (or perhaps should) be spent on transportation and technology upgrades. If one takes the 1 Million budget and divides it by the number of student athletes, I suspect we'll see a very large expenditure per student. Difficult decisions = realistic budgets.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 9:29 a.m.

Like I said Roscoe.... Let's see the line item detail of what is needed and the exact amount of money that will be spent down to the penny. Not some vague language which states "remodeling, furnishing, equipping school buildings, installing new technology in schools, acquiring school buses and developing and improving playgrounds and building sites." This tells me absolutely NOTHING and leaves the door wide open for excess and waste. Once we know EXACTLY what is needed, then we can start formulating some solutions.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 8:29 a.m.

From an earlier comment: "Yes, we can cancel the music program to replace some of the oldest school busses in the county". ============== If you are canceling the music program,, then the SPORTS program had best be on the chopping block as well. Add up the costs of the sports fields, maintenance, equipment and staff and you find MILLIONS is savings. The music program has already experienced cutbacks over the past two years. The only expenses to cut there are 2 or 3 instructors. I would like to see some other financial SOLUTIONS from those that simply rail against this proposal. The school needs to upgrade their buses and have money to operate the schools in this downturn,, every district in the state is going through the same mess. Stop saying "NO" and let's see some SOLUTIONS!

Patrick Zieske

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 8:26 a.m.

OK, it's not a tax increase -- for now. But as others here have pointed out, technology upgrades only last for 5-7 years, yet the bond goes on much longer than that. What's going to happen in 2015-2017 when the then-to-be-obsolete technology needs to be upgraded again? It's not hard to predict: A request for a tax increase. They're just pushing the tax increase out into the future by borrowing. Low interest rates now... let's all line up for more debt! It's classic. All of us who have gone through the housing boom and bust know the basic story. Why should tax rates remain the same, anyway? They're already too high. When times are tough, you cut back. If school taxes were more reasonable all along, times might not have gotten quite so tough in the first place. Taxes are a burden on the economy overall, just as they are to individual taxpayers. Proponents of the bond will eagerly cast the issue as stingy taxpayers versus the kids. "Programs will be cut!", they always say. But the story about staff salaries and benefits is becoming well known. Saline could probably save $1.5 to $2 million from leaving MESSA health insurance, for a start. Such lavish benefits are rare in the private sector. A lot of the "needed" technology ought to be questioned too. Let's go to the forums and see what's in there. I've seen Smart Boards go up in another school at a supposed cost of a couple thousand a pop. C'mon. Is public education really suffering from a lack of cool toys? When the bond fails -- as it should -- the debate will then shift to the SEA versus the kids. That's when it gets really interesting.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 5:36 a.m.

It's basically a refinance, use the funds to help with current needs and infrastructure (which the majority of the money goes to) and it doesn't increase my tax bill. It does extend, so I know in 2026 I would be paying same, when without it I would begin to pay less. I'll take that deal and no, sadly, I'm not high paid bank VP. Bottomline, times are tough and this move makes sense.


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 11:38 p.m.

Can someone at find out what this extra vote is going to cost the residents of the City of Saline? We have to pay the kind people that give up their days to work at the voting booths and are we paying the school for the use of the gym at Heritage? I'm sure the printing of the ballot and the paper, the voting machines all cost. And the cost of our City Clerk that orchestrates it all. All of this for something that we voted down just a couple of months ago? This seems like a waste of money. We already said no. I would need a very detailed list of items of where this money is going before I change my vote. I'm just saying......


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.

OK, Bill....if you came to me in my current job (VP of Engineering for an Evil Bank) and wanted to pay for our tech upgrades over a span of 20 years, you would be let go NOW. Tech upgrades are obsolete after 5-7 years. Why pay for them 13 years after they have been ripped out and replaced? There is NO fiscal responsibility in this plan. Where is the line item detail of what the money is going to be spent on? And yes, I want it down to the penny. Same-old "it's for the children" argument, Bill.

Fat Bill

Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

Same old anti-tax rhetoric here. Sure, let's have the school district become merely average, or even below average, so that we can hang on to a few more dollars. Compared to other districts in the area, I think Saline does more with less. Yes, we can cancel the music program to replace some of the oldest school busses in the county. Or we can skip bussing altogether and create enormous traffic jams in the morning and who knows how the kids get home in the afternoon... The Saline Area Schools, despite recent cuts, remain among the best districts in the state mostly because of strong community support. Lets not be so quick to slash the programs. After all, this economic slowdown will not last forever, but the impact of cuts in education will last a lifetime for the students involved.

Donald Duck

Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

School district should budget ahead of time as part of thier planning process for stuff they know they will need in the future. Businesses do it. Home owners do it. It's a responsible practice. School district should do it too. Why should the school district spend lavishly, then nickel and dime taxpayers to avoid planning responsibly for the future under the guise of concern for education. Everything else in the economy shrinks, so should the school district. Forecast it and plan for it. Err in the safe side.


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

Have you seen the High School? It's a monstrosity! Don't tell me they needed a school that big. Some corporate buildings are not that elaborate. Wake up Saline. Take a lesson that we teach our children. Don't spend money you don't have!


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

That is scary. A school district the size of Saline, a 125 million in debt?! When are these people gonna get it?


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

It's absolutely ludicrous to pay for any type of technology over a span of twenty years. Tech is usually outdated and replaced in 5-7 years.


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

My wallet is on life support now, don't ask me for any more money. Why don't you understand the concept of 'NO' and why can't you stop spending money you don't have?