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Posted on Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 12:54 p.m.

Saline schools will ask voters to pass revamped school bond in special election in February

By Kyle Feldscher

Saline Area Schools plans to ask voters in February to pass a revamped and reduced version of a bond that voters rejected in the August primary.

The bond would add $22 million in new debt to the current $124 million bond by extending repayment from 2025 to 2031. In August, the district was looking to add $28 million to the bond, but the proposal was defeated by 154 votes.

On Tuesday, the school board voted unanimously to put the scaled-back bond on the ballot.

Superintendent Scot Graden said about 85 percent of the bond would be used for building and site improvements in the district and 15 percent for technology and busing. He said many of the projects the money would fund are similar to those included in the failed August plan, but are scaled back.

“The scope of the projects for the buildings were adjusted,” Graden said. “The goal is to think proactively about where buildings are at and being efficient in terms of use. We’re not necessarily going some of the things we wanted to do.”

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 $200,000 home with a taxable value of $100,000 about $700. The 7-mill rate would continue if the bond is extended.

The vote on the proposal will take place on Feb. 22 during a special election. The election is estimated to cost $15,000.

Graden said one of the projects the district scaled back is upgrading metal roofs at many of the district’s schools. He said the district will be looking for more targeted projects, which will be presented to the public at community forums in January.

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Superintendent Scot Graden

New bus purchases are included in the proposal. Graden said the district would set aside about $1 million of the bond for 14 new buses, which would be phased in over three to four years.

The school district conducted research after the August vote to see why the bond failed and learned the proposal didn’t have enough specifics for voters, Graden said. The campaign mostly focused on how the district could save on low-interest federal loans that were available until Sept. 30.

In addition, the district emphasized the low cost of goods and services during the current economic climate, which means it can do certain projects when prices are at an “all-time low,” he said.

Graden said the district didn't provide enough information to help voters see how the proposal would impact them. He said the district would work to make sure families know how the bond could benefit their children.

“The discussion needed to be more specific about what it would mean for their child and their buildings,” he said.

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


Jimmy Olsen

Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 9:39 p.m.

Funny how posters complain about former MEA members on the board and you all just elected another board member sponsored by the SEA. For the posters that are asking about using sinking fund dollars to buy buses - it is against state law - you should have realized that when you voted last time.


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 8:26 p.m.

Jonny Spirit, maybe that concept will work for me in my next sales call; Mr. customer, my job is really hard, so if you dont like my prices then perhaps you should go back to college and get an MBA and do my job because you think it is so easy. Sign of the times:


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 8:25 p.m.

Isn't this actually the third time we've been asked to vote on extra money for the schools in the last couple of years? It's time for the schools to get the message - we can't afford to extend our payments for 20 years, 10 years or even one year.


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 11:33 a.m.

Seriously??? What part don't you understand, Saline Area Schools. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS like the rest of have to do and if you don't have enough money to do what you want to do, then adjust your budget accordingly. WHY is that so difficult to understand????? I repeat: LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS. People don't understand that the salaries/healthcare comes out of a totally different budget item, or I would suggest making the teachers pay for part of their HEALTHCARE and use the left over money for improvements, etc. Now, what did I say, Saline Area Schools? One more time....LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS. Trust me, people are so fed up with you even asking a second time. This will not pass, and PLEASE do not bring it up again. Do you understand now???

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 6:58 a.m.

Hey stunhsif and sh1 if you think it is that easy and teachers make so much money then GO BE A TEACHER! Go for it, go back to school. Colleges everywhere have these degrees. Go and do it, you both sound very smart and intelligent. I know if I want something, I go do it instead of complaining about it behind a computer to thousands of people. Good luck to both of you, I hope you well in your new journey of becoming an educator.


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 3:25 a.m.

Salineone, like Ralph, I was a little curious about your post asserting Saline teachers make more than UM faculty. I know faculty pay rates are available on the Michigan Daily website. I do not know where to get the Saline teacher's salary listings. During the 35 years I was at UM I never saw a faculty members pay lower than that of a public school teacher. Are you talking about Grad student assistants or lecturers or part time professors? For example, in 1982 one of my profs was making $60,000 with his 75% appointment. History prof. So let's take look. Going into the Daily listings for 2009 I select English Dept. Right away I see an Asst Prof with a.25% appointment (that is just ten hours a week) making $58,000 salary. Another with a full time appt making $121,000 and another listed at $97,000. Are you telling us Saline teachers make more than that? Wow, here is another prof with a 75% appointment making $158,000 a year. Now the lecturers do not make much but they are not supposed to. There is a big difference between a faculty member and a lecturer. If Saline teachers make more than this, where do I sign up?


Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 10:08 p.m.

"Teachers work less than 9 months out of the year." That's rich. Can you defend that with some data?


Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 6:27 p.m.

Jonny Spirit said: " So lets keep the teachers out of this article, because they have NOTHING to do with this money!". To use poor grammer, my repsonse is "wrong and wronger". When the school board renegotiates the teachers next contract, they can use that cost savings to buy new buses, new metal roofs, windmills, gardens, greenhouses or whatever else they want to buy. Good Day No Luck Needed

Jonny Spirit

Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 1:04 p.m.

FredMax, what do you mean, missing the point. You don't want to pass a bond that would cost you more money. You don't understand, this bond has NOTHING to do with teachers salary, but the first thing people say is "teachers make to much money, cut there benefits, they don't work all year. Yup, the economy went to the crappers and all the FAT companies needed to trim down. Ummmm have you been under a rock for the past 4 years. If you think Saline schools have not cut there fat your sadly wrong. I don't want this bond because money is being spent with NO thought. (Fancy sing in front of Liberty school $20,000, Fancy sing in front of Saline high school $60,000) Why? So lets keep the teachers out of this article, because they have NOTHING to do with this money!


Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

Jonny Spirit, that tired argument is missing the point. It is illogical to propose that the solution to a ravaged economy is to have everyone compete for a relatively small number of unaffected union-protected government jobs. Perhaps it would make far more sense to check the compensation on those jobs. Economic conditions in the automotive market drove away the auto-company bonuses. Likewise, current local economic conditions dictate that taxpayers re-evaluate teaching compensation.

mike from saline

Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

This may surprise a few folks who've read my coments before. I'll be voting Yea! I have no problem supporting the community I live in, and what is arguably the best school system in Washtenaw County [and maybe the State of Michigan]. My wife and I put 4 kids through Saline Public Schools, and we are more than just a little satisfied. Are they perfect? of course not. No person, or institution is. But they're pretty damn good. Even though my kids are all adults now, having a top notch School System [along with great City service's] makes Saline [along with Dexter and Chelsea] one of the most desireable place's to live, and raise a family, and has a direct connection to the value of my house, and property. We moved to Saline in 1975 {I'd grown up in Ann Arbor] and it has been one of the best decisions we ever made! I've never voted No, on any funding for our community or It's schools, and I'm not going to start now. I want the best of the best! Now, as far as the Federal Government's "Dept of Education" is concerned, they can padlock it, and fire all the employee's for all I care. Public education is a local responsibility. I feel pretty much the same about about the thieve's in Lansing. Stay out of our buisness! Stay out of my wallet!

Jonny Spirit

Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 6:49 a.m.

@stunhsif hey hers an idea go get a teaching degree and become a teacher. I hear that colleges give those thing out. Oh or just sit around complain "or poor little me". Why do you people hate the fact that some people picked the profession of becoming a teacher and some of you pick lets say a doctor. If your not going to better yourself by going back to school or trying something different then stop bashing other people. I wish I would of selected the road of becoming a teacher. I didn't, because I couldn't handle 35 rug rats all day, every day, every minute. Yes the pension is nice, but I think I remember not to long ago when the auto companies were handing out bonuses to people every year, and oh yeah a 30 and out retirement plan just like state workers. So please, if you like the health care of the teachers then go be a teacher!


Thu, Nov 25, 2010 : 8:41 p.m.

JerryStone1971 said: "I'm not a teacher at Saline, but I am a teacher in the State of Michigan. We all took cuts. Just like everyone. On top of teaching 35 kids in a class (which I know no one cares about), there is a line-item on EVERY SINGLE PAYCHECK that takes an additional 3% of my salary and sends it to the state. This is a fund that can be used for anything. Even patching potholes on a broken road! I do more, I make less. That's a cut/concession/whatever you want to call it. Get off the unions. Or join one!" Or join one Jerry? Yea, right. So you took a whopping 3% paycut which actually goes toward your future retirement/pension and those of your co-workers who have already retired. That money cannot go for filling potholes or road repairs. You also have cadillac healthcare after you retire, none of the rest of us ( in the private sector) have anything even close. And don't even start with the lies of saying you are not paid as well as the private sector and that you have advanced degress. Many of us do as well and we have no pensions and healthcare after we retire. For that matter, Saline teachers pay nothing toward their healthcare, I pay 80 dollars a week and have copays of $20 generic and $30 name brand. Join a union, yea right! Next thing to talk about Jerry is how many million dollars your pension fund is underfunded? Why do you think the state instituted the 3% you now pay into the pension fund, it is going broke and fast. Your pension fund makes Social Insecurity look like a good deal!


Thu, Nov 25, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Scot Graden, how many ways can we say NO to your bond proposals? We'll find out in February at the second special election that will cost us another $15,000. That's $30,000 that could have been used to provide technology equipment to our students. By the way, how much did your fancy new scrolling electronic sign in front of Liberty school cost us? I suspect the primary purpose of the new sign is to urge voters to vote yes on your excessive, wasteful bond proposal in February. My advice is to start making cuts at the top, car allowances, cell phone allowances, salaries and benefits to overpaid administrators. We've all had to make cuts in our budgets, and the schools should too.


Thu, Nov 25, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

I'm not a teacher at Saline, but I am a teacher in the State of Michigan. We all took cuts. Just like everyone. On top of teaching 35 kids in a class (which I know no one cares about), there is a line-item on EVERY SINGLE PAYCHECK that takes an additional 3% of my salary and sends it to the state. This is a fund that can be used for anything. Even patching potholes on a broken road! I do more, I make less. That's a cut/concession/whatever you want to call it. Get off the unions. Or join one!


Thu, Nov 25, 2010 : 9:28 a.m.

As I read about all of the local tragedies with suicide, etc. --- I am so happy, proud, and thankful to send my kids to Saline Area Schools. Sure, they are one of the top-paid school districts in Michigan --- they are also one of the TOP PERFORMING school districts in Michigan. Kids are under so much stress and pressure these different from when I was in school. The staff members at Saline Area Schools do an outstanding job. Administrators, custodians, support staff --- and especially the TEACHERS. Everyone, from the top of the pay scale to the bottom, you all earn every single dollar you make. On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for people who devote their lives to helping our children be safe and successful each and every day. SAS staff and faculty, thank you for all you do.

Jonny Spirit

Thu, Nov 25, 2010 : 6:24 a.m.

I know many teachers from Saline and I talked to them about this and none of them want this. They said why spend another $15,000 dollars to even put this on the ballot, they mise well go to Vegas and bet on red or black. This is stupid. We need to stop spending money and use what we have. And please don't tell me you think it is OK to cut a teachers pay and buy a new metal roof. I would rather have my money going towards the education of our children then a dumb windmill. I hear the district is also spending $25,000 to fight grievance about 50 printers of the 330 of them sitting on a floor in a classroom. Saline teachers told me that these printers where bought from the last Technology Bond that Saline passed (tax money thrown out the window). Money well spent again, take them away from the teachers to put them on the floor in a classroom to collect dust. What?


Thu, Nov 25, 2010 : 1:33 a.m.

I will not be voting NO I will be voting HELL NO! What is Todd Carter's position on this? The new school board member with Tea Party ties has an obligation to speak out and loudly against the robbing Peter to pay Paul Ponzi scheme being proposed. When Graden and the school board confront the SEA and obtain meaningful cuts then and only then will I consider voting for school funding. Wake up Graden! We can take you out as fast as we put you in. We said NO once and do not want to engage in the ol wear em strategy.

Fat Bill

Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 11:28 p.m.

Saline always gets the maximum (and then some) life out of their bus fleet. In many states (Indiana for example), busses have to be replaced at twelve years old. Saline has some busses from the early 90's still running regular routes! Sure, you could buy new busses from the general fund, just slash some of the instructional budget...seems like the wrong approach in these lean times. More students than not ride the bus to school; it is by far the most efficient and safe way to get there. State law does not allow districts to charge families directly for the service; if they did, many parents would pay. I wonder if the District would consider a separate sinking-fund millage just for school bus capital purchases? The time period could be set to correspond to an ideal 10 to 12 year life cycle for a school bus. Remember that newer buses have additional safety features that the older units lack, such as a system that requires drivers to perform a post-trip walk through. Not to mention a significant increase in fuel economy. Could Saline do without school busses? Sure, but consider the impact on traffic and safety when over 3000 students find a different way to school. This would be like a football day in Ann Arbor every morning at every school...


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 10:22 p.m.

@Salinedad, Perfect, not much to add as you covered everything I was thinking. I voted no last time and my wife and I will vote no once again. Until they get concessions from the SEA and scale back their pensions and healthcare I will never vote yes again on a millage or bond. There is no need for this bond or for asking taxpayers for any more money. They can get that money when the teachers contract comes up next time.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 9:06 p.m.

Interesting that not more than 9 months ago the School Board and Administration moved the Board elections to November to eliminate unnecessary expenses of having the School Board elected in May. Since that time we had 1 special election for funds, spending $15,000 on it and now doing it aqgain less than 6 months later. All that has happened by changing the election cycle for the School Board is we will have extended the serving period for the two members of the Board who are former MEA negotiators through the next contract negotiations and will continue to spend for special elections and will have spent $30,000 that we don't have. I suggest that Saline Administration and the School Board would have much greater success of having this type of action pass AFTER they reduce the cost of the SEA contract. Saline has 60% of the funding of Ann Arbor Schools but our teacher start 15% higher than Ann Arbor teachers do, our top of the step for a teacher is 15% higher as well, we supplement the pension contribution by purchasing annuities for our teachers at no expense to the teachers and charge nothing for health care for our teachers. Seems like the focus should be on cost containment, paying a competitive total rewards package rather than being one of the top payers in the state, with a foundation rate at the bottom third of the state. IF after the School Board and the School Administration get their labor expense in line with their peer schools as a percent of expenditure, they feel a bond is necessary, then they at least have shown they understand how to control expenses, manage within limitations and have shown themselves to be good stewards of the dollars provided. If they really feel this revenue request is valid, then solve the labor expense issue then ask for revenue for long term improvements. The priorities appear to be backward.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 8:41 p.m.

Faculty salaries are posted annually in the Michigan Daily. They are a matter of public record. Teachers salaries are also public. I have personal friends at the U and also in the public school and know what they make. The data is available if you are truely interested.

scooter dog

Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 8:15 p.m.

Lots of top notch people out of work. Any chance a level headed in touch with todays economy type person might be looking for work.? This school system needs new leadership,soon. Preferably someone not in la la land.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 7:47 p.m.

No, you really don't get it. Do what everyone else is doing, do with less or go without.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 6:26 p.m.

I agree with DonBee. Buying buses with a bond makes no sense. Just leaves more money in the general fund to fund teacher health care. Bus replacement is a normal cost of running a school district. We shouldn't need a special election to pay for them and we certainly shouldn't be paying them off over twenty years. We just passed a sinking fund. That should take care of pressing facility needs.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 5:43 p.m.

Hey Salineone: How about some real facts on the items you bring up. I'd like to see the data.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 4:21 p.m.

Buy a bus in 2011 and pay for it through 2031? Want to bet the bus will still be on the road in 20 years? Buying buses this way means paying for them twice - the interest at 5 percent is about the same as the cost of the bus. So they will buy 14 and pay for 28.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 3:26 p.m.

I'm OK where repairs or replacements are clearly explained and justified, but question new construction, expanded sports or revamping of non-essential classroom items. I also expect either a quick payback or proven benefit. Any bells or whistles will kill this proposal. Further, if there is no substantial progress in reducing operating costs to reflect the county or state averages prior to the vote, they'll be absolutely no support from those who have personally faced real cuts of their own.

scooter dog

Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 3:25 p.m.

They must be dreaming. Its called live within your means. Cut,Cut,Cut, and start at the top. I want to drive a caddy,but my budget says I can only drive a chevy,and I cut to the bone to drive it WOW, When will this circus end.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 3:16 p.m.

absolutly not. You Charge for every thing now.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 2:20 p.m.

What building and site improvements does Saline need with all new schools? If they need more money, sell the old Houghton school building since it's been empty for over a year. We don't mind paying taxes if the money is put to good use. They're throwing too much away on stupid ideas. We don't need windmills and gardens as improvements to the schools. Why not let the shop classes build the windmills (cylindrical are more efficient)? And who will be taking care of the gardens since there are no classes during the growing season. Anyone thought of that? Gardens don't grow in the winter. Or do you need money for hydroponic gardens??!! 14 new buses??!! How many does Saline need? What percentage of parents drive their kids to school everyday? Share rides. Stop spending money you don't have and work within a budget. Everyone else is doing that. It would be a learning experience for the school district.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

won't pass


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 1:42 p.m.

This is the right way for the school to go about this, put it to the voters. Start stuffing those lunchboxes with info for the kids to take home to Mom and Dad and hope more supportive parents will go to the polls and outnumber the anti tax folks who do not want to pay more. I am on the fence on school spending. My kids are grown up. And I am suspicious, like salineone here, on how schools spend.


Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 1:29 p.m.

They don't get it. Learn to live within their budget. People are losing their homes. Teachers work less than 9 months out of the year. I taught for over twenty years at the U of M. There are many teachers getting paid more than University of Michigan faculty. I know this for a fact. The U faculty are not unionized. K-12 teachers have far better benefits than the U. If all the money we spend on our public schools, was given out in vouchers to parents to decide where to educate their kids, the public schools would have to compete and they would learn to spend money wisely. Don't get me wrong, the U wastes so much money, but is is not on faculty salaries. It is on useless research that never is held accountable. It is spent on "over the top" buildings like the new stadium addition with lights, that is used 6-8 times a year. We have our priorities messed up. More money does not mean better education. If it did, Detroit public schools would be getting better results than they are. Many private schools educate kids better for far less money. They don't have to build schools that are indestructible because kids are held accountable if they break anything. Parents are involved and have "ownership".