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Posted on Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:54 a.m.

Voters to decide fate of Ann Arbor schools' $45.8M technology millage on May 8

By Danielle Arndt


Community High School students work on outdated eMacs. If passed, the $45.8 million technology bond would replace most of Ann Arbor Public Schools' desktop and laptop computers. file photo

Residents within the Ann Arbor Public Schools district will be asked to vote on a $45.8 million bond for technology improvements next Tuesday.

If passed, starting in July, the millage would levy, on average, an additional .51 mills per year until 2023.

According to AAPS, voters whose homes have a market value of $100,000 would pay an extra $26 per year. Residents with a $200,000 to $300,000 home would owe $51 to $77 more.

The technology bond would allow AAPS, over the course of 10 years, to expand its wireless infrastructures, increase its bandwidth, upgrade server rooms and purchase new Mac computers, printers, iPads, document cameras and digital textbooks.

Included in the Ann Arbor Public Schools technology bond plan is:

  • Expanding wireless infrastructures for greater support and speed
  • Expanding AAPS’ network video system
  • Replacing 8,142 of the district’s 8,250 computers at a cost of about $25 million
  • Purchasing mobile technology devices, such as $13,500 in iPads, for student use
  • Replacing sound amplifiers in classrooms across the district
  • Upgrading server rooms, replacing some servers and fixing heating and cooling issues in these rooms
  • Replacing and repairing printers at a cost of $300,000
  • Purchasing one document camera per art room
  • About $500,000 in career-technical education equipment
  • Human resources software
It also drastically could alter the tone of current budget discussions, school officials have said.

Administrators indicated if the bond does not pass, AAPS would need to scrounge for a minimum of $3 million to $6 million for the 2012-13 school year in order to fix critical bandwidth and infrastructure problems that cause frequent crashes of the schools’ main distribution framework.

Ann Arbor is facing a $17.8 million budget shortfall for the coming academic year and has proposed a variety of cuts to staff, transportation and the merging of its alternative high schools, among other things, to balance the budget.

“I don’t know how it is going to turn out,” Glenn Nelson, school board trustee and member of the Citizens Millage Committee, said of Tuesday’s vote. “I’ve been through enough of these things to know and I’m really nervous and hyper and have not been sleeping well. … I fear for the students if we don’t figure out a way to get resources into the schools.”

The committee has passed out fliers at school functions and events and hosted a couple of public forums on the technology bond. However, the forums have been sparsely attended, Nelson said. School officials also have made the rounds, presenting to the district’s parent-teacher organizations.

Nelson said outside of the core school base, he has encountered a number of people who do not support the millage.

“They will just shake their heads firmly and say, ‘No, I can’t support it’ … or they don’t take the flier,” he said.

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber (A2Y) issued a statement supporting the technology bond.

While not an advocacy group, the Ann Arbor Technology Advisory Committee, comprised of local tech and software gurus, has expressed its approval of the tech bond plan. It also helped the district tweak its instructional technology outlook for 2013-15.

The tweaks included exploring with greater emphasis digital textbooks, integrating lessons on digital citizenship into the curriculum and researching the impacts of a “bring-your-own-device” model as a way of increasing mobile learning for students in the classroom.

Previous coverage

The district also developed a lengthy evaluation form to gauge and determine on an annual basis how technology is being implemented and used in the schools.

“The most impressive change is the yearly evaluation that reviews the effectiveness of technology integration,” said James Corey, a member of the tech advisory group. “We were really worried about, OK, if we are going to go and do all this stuff, if the technology millage passes, we want to make sure it is working and that we don’t spend money on stuff in Phase 2 or 3 that didn’t work well in Phase 1.

“I have to applaud them (the district) for their willingness to make a lot of changes,” he said.

While there is no organized opposition to the district’s technology bond, some of the same individuals who were against the 2009 countywide schools millage, which failed, are against this proposal.

“The reasons are still the same,” said district resident Ted Annis. “Ann Arbor Public Schools receive more funds per student than any other school system around it. … And it is really offensive to me that they don’t have the courage to put this on the November ballot. They are going to sneak it in the back door when turnout is low.”

Additionally, Annis said the schools must be more responsible with the funds they are given before asking for more. He said in 2008, AAPS had about 800 total administrators and support staff, while it had approximately 1,150 teachers. He called that number “staggering” and said until the district makes some tough personnel decisions to reduce the number of staff outside the classroom, he would not support the millage.

Nelson said while the district originally had hoped to have its proposal together in time for the ballot last November, waiting until May was a wise decision. It gave administrators the opportunity to really define the bond plan, he said.

District spokeswoman Liz Margolis added it is true the district will assume all costs, which she estimated at about $86,000, for the special election Tuesday.

She said the board was prepared to place the proposal on the February ballot, however, the Republicans approved a closed Republican primary.

"This likely would have been an impediment to the bond to appear on this ballot, because there would have needed to be two ballots. And the amount of communication needed to get to the Independent and Democratic voters would have been monumental since the communication was that this was a closed election for Republicans," Margolis said.

Nelson added the district must avoid huge class sizes this year and one way to do that is by passing the bond and allowing general fund dollars to be used for teachers and other classroom-related materials.

He said 100 percent of the bond money would go toward AAPS, whereas non-bond tax dollars are divided among various public and state institutions.

Superintendent Patricia Green said passing the bond is necessary to helping AAPS deliver a "world class curriculum" and to developing "21st century learners."

She said a lack of proper infrastructure, aging computers and limited computer lab availability are major issues for teachers and greatly impact their ability to carry out curriculum and state-mandated testing.

More information on Ann Arbor's technology bond can be found on the district's website.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, May 8, 2012 : 10:44 a.m.

The schools desperately need to upgrade infrastructure and bandwidth as aaps is behind most districts in age of its buidlings. If you really want to protect funds from misuse, this bond is the way to ensure that this money is used only on technology. The desktops, photocopiers, projectors, etc., are ancient at most schools!!! Please support our schools and, more importantly, our kids. It's not like every student will be walking around toting iPads! They will put them on a cart for classroom use to do thugs like lab experiments because there is no longer a budget for these sorts of things with all of the budgets coming from misuse in Lansing! If you don't think class sizes of 30-35 are large enough, don't vote for this bond...

Aaron Wolf

Sun, May 6, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

I will be voting no. I wish I had gotten involved sooner (maybe I'll try to be in the future), but the issue isn't purely one of more or less money. This is a tax that takes my money and gives it to Apple and Microsoft. There is NO JUSTIFICATION for this when there exist community resources available freely such as GNU/Linux operating systems, LibreOffice, and lots more. Technology is important, and the only way students can learn to master their technology is to use free (as in freedom!) open-source software that they can use however they like. Microsoft and Apple have restrictions on how the schools can use their systems, and it is against the student's interests to tie them into these systems. Simply put: Apple and Microsoft want more money, and they can demand it from the schools who can demand it for us. Meanwhile, the Document Foundation gives schools free access to use LibreOffice however they like, and we can even take the money that would have gone to the corporations and pay developers to improve LibreOffice and other programs and still keep it all a free community resource.


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

@Aaron - You have some good points regarding the availability of free/low-cost software options. However, a couple of things not mentioned in your post: 1. The district has moved to Google Apps and GMail to bring costs down in the IT arena. 2. "GNU/Linux operating systems, LibreOffice, and lots more" cannot replace aging infrastructure. Switching technology, routers, etc. require replacement. The district has approximately 35 buildings and has to maintain interconnectivity between them.

Roger Kuhlman

Sat, May 5, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Enough is Enough! AAPS wants to raise your property taxes. AATA wants to raise your property taxes. AAPL wants to raise your property taxes. Washtenaw County Road Commission wants to raise your property taxes. What are political Leftists who control local government thinking. It is not the fact that many citizens of Ann Arbor are still hurting badly from the current recession and that city property taxes and spending are way too high already. No they now have an opportunity to reward their special interest friends and allies. Some facts on the school millage: -The Ann Arbor School Board claims they have cut $55 million from their budget over the past five years. Does that mean they are spending $55 million less than five years ago. No, they are not telling you the truth. -The millage is fraudently represented as a special technology bond. Sure they can claim this but really this millage is to help continue paying extravagant retirement pensions and healthcare costs for school employees without significant cuts. Where schools are run in a fiscally responsible manner technology expenditures are normal operating expenses coming out of the General Fund. This so-called Tech bond is just a clever ploy to get more money out of taxpayers through deception. -The Ann Arbor School Board has a long history of excessive spending and fiscal irresponsibility. Remember the millions and millions of dollars they had to pay the Substitute Teachers and the unnecessary building of Skyline High School despite the fact that demographics did not support it.


Sat, May 5, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

AAPS spending on varsity sports is clearly out of control and they have clearly shown their priorities by choosing to eliminate band camp while not reducing sports spending. Nevertheless, I will still vote YES for the millage because 100% of these funds go to AAPS and not one dime goes to Lansing.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

I will vote yes because technology has become an everyday part of our children's lives. They need to know how to use it. I will continue to be vocal about the shameful 2 am raises and the way that essential programs are being cut instead of administrative cuts.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

@Leo - The life of the bond covers approx. 2.5 full refreshes of those computers, which brings those numbers well into line. Far all those complaining about iPads - The district will be investigating ways that these less expensive devices can fill instructional purposes and take the place of more expensive laptops. I have heard from a reliable source inside the district's ITD that there are a minimal number of these devices included in the first wave. However, they are hoping that as the technology of tablets matures they may be implemented in a number of roles. Also, much of this information was available at the public forum.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

@adam - From what I have been told, many teachers have been requesting iPads, and some have purchased them on their own and brought them into the classroom. Also, don't focus on so much on iPads exclusively. They are looking at a number of different more mobile, cost-effective devices. As far as tablets go, I understand the Director of IT there traded in his iPad2 for a Motorla Xoom a few months back because he found the tech superior. Who knows what the future will be?


Sat, May 5, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

From the public forum did you get the gist that teachers wanted these iPads or that the school is just forcing it on the teachers? If they didn't ask for it, the iPads (or whatever future tablet they use) will just sit in the back of the classroom doing nothing. Are there lesson plans and materials written up to take advantage of the iPads, or are we just putting the carriage before the horse? Also, were the iPads really just meant to replace textbooks (with apples iBooks)? If so, shouldnt this be funded from the textbook fund?

Dog Guy

Fri, May 4, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

The computer I am using cost $299.90 at Staples ($249.90 after easy rebate) and included Windows 7, 3GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, everything optical drive, lots of software,and a 1year full warranty. Maybe this computer is not educated enough for school.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

"•Replacing 8,142 of the district's 8,250 computers at a cost of about $25 million" Let us do a simple math: $25,000,000/8142=$3070.49 What kind of compter cost more than $3000 for school use? Independent investigators are needed to see what's going on...

Ron Granger

Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

"It also drastically could alter the tone of current budget discussions, school officials have said." It sure will. Does anyone know the tone of a drunken sailor on a spending spree? Is it something like "Yeeehawwww!"?


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

I'll vote against it if for no other reason than the underhandeness of putting it on a May ballot instead of November.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Underhandedness AND causing the city to have to fund an election for this one item.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:13 a.m.

Don Bee, I usually find your posts to be insightful. It seems lately that you are blaming Varsity Sports for a lot of the financial problems. Why? Aren't sports an important part of child's experience in school? Don't studies show that kids who play sports do better overall in school? Isn't that what we are ALL supposed to be trying to accomplish, helping our school system produce better students?


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1 p.m.

boo - The studies show that students who have regular physical activity do better in school. I am a big fan of Physical Education. The studies show that students who play varsity sports in schools where there is a culture of sports tend to be the biggest source of bullying. I am all in favor of a daily 15 minute Physical Education period at that start of the school day and one after lunch - that includes the WHOLE school. Right now after grade school, the culture is if you are on track to be varsity, you continue to get physical exercise and if you are not, you don't. Reducing the Varsity pressure and encouraging more students to get physical exercise would go a long way in helping deal with achievement, weight management and future productivity of these children. Right now, I think the district is too focused on Varsity level sports and winnning at ANY cost. On an annual basis $3 million dollars or more is tranferred from the general fund to the athletic fund, millions more from the booster clubs are added. A few hundred thousand from ticket sales are also added. Then you can add sinking fund money almost every year since it passed to pay for fields, grandstands, weight rooms, and other facilities, all of which have to be maintained. The district can't find $60,000 for band camp, but they can find $3 million for Varsity sports. They can't find technology money for classroom computers, but they can find $12 million for new Varsity only facilities. I think we need to rethink priorities boo, more physical education for all students daily.More focus on classroom support first.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

This is all very enlightening but the US spends 75% of what the rest of all top leading countries spend by itself ... 25% more per-pupil than any other nation, yet we rank 9th and 10th in science and math, respectively. We spend 80 times as much as Finland, yet the Fins are #1. OK, so maybe that's just math and science ... But this isn't the Kobe system where we just need MORE MONEY to be MORE SUCCESSFUL. More money, more technology is not going to bridge the gap ... we think that providing students with more FREE technology is the answer. The admins take the credit for the FREE stuff but we the taxpayers pay for it and the students eat it up. $50 more a year isn't going to break me, if I believed it would help I would back it but we are WAY beyond MORE MONEY and should realize that will be just like throwing kerosine on a fire, we'll just get burned again and again. The answer must lie somewhere else. I certainly don't know what it is ... maybe its more societal/cultural.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

Dear Friends, Many aspects of funding and spending within the Ann Arbor Public Schools are dictated at the state or federal level and outside of our local control. So the question is this - do we want to increase funding through this legal mechanism that funnels 100% of this extra millage to the schools, or do we want the slide toward being only a slight better than an average school district to continue? I'm not thrilled with the new administration, wasteful spending or the AAEA contract, but I want Ann Arbor Public School to remain exceptional. I'm voting for the millage. Unlike the basic school millage, every dollar of this millage goes to our schools and not one dime goes to Lansing. Act now to keep our schools exceptional. Vote YES and resolve any grievances with the board, administration, or state legislators later.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:07 a.m.

When aataxpayer? When? There was discussion after the 2004 millage, 2008 millage, the failed enhancement millage and last fall. So when and how would you suggest?

No Millage for Spendthrifts

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

You can see for yourself, the Rogues' Gallery of administrators, board members, spouses, and companies doing business with AAPS who have contributed over $12,000 to push the millage. The link is at While it's all apparently legal, it is dubious that these folks feather each other's nests, provide poor financial leadership to the public, and then contribute heavily to a promote a solution to their own profligacy on the backs of the taxpayers. Vote NO on Tuesday, May 8.

Jack Panitch

Sat, May 5, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.

It's a who's who of what? How many ways is that a complete misrepresentation, DonBee? And look: there are names! People actually standing up for what they believe in. Imagine!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

And this was with 3 weeks to go. This is a who's who of people who are financially engaged with AAPS. I am not surprised. I would pay attention to the last 3 pages at the expenses when you review this document. I note most of the money had not been spent yet. It will be more interesting in a month where the rest of the money went and who else contributed.

Dog Guy

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

I'm a teacher. Invest in me. Invest in my future.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

J.A. Pieper...I'm a teacher and have to upgrade things in my home constantly. Things break. Things get old. Things are outdated. Comparing YOUR budget to running an entire school system is silly. The budget has been chopped - expecting us to do more with less. When things need to be upgraded, what then? I hope you are willing to do your part when your co-workers have 55 kids in their classes. What will YOU do then? What's your plan to be a positive part of the solution. So far, I see a lot of bitterness, but no real solutions or ways YOU plan on helping. I'm an A2 taxpayer too, and I will happily pay my share for this bond. My third grade babies will suffer and it's my job to protect THEM, and helping pass this bond will do that. I care about their future, and I'm sad, and quite horrified, that you don't.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

I'm a teacher. I am an Ann Arbor taxpayer. I have to live within my budget. AAPS should have to do the same. I am voting NO. I strongly encourage everyone to do the same, vote NO!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

Was leaning toward voting "no." Reading the comments of those opposed has changed my mind. Will vote in favor and will drive my friends to the poll to do the same.

David Cahill

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

I'll be voting "no". I don't trust the School Board to manage its money, or its programs, wisely. Who can forget the quarter-of-a-million-dollar superintendent? Or the midnight raises for administrators? Or the busing mess last fall?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

25 Million to replace 8142 is alittle over $3000 per computer. Even most apple computers don't come close to that. I support teachers, alot of close friends are teachers that need new technology. We do not wish to lose any more teachers. I just hate giving the school system more money to do the wrong things with. Like Ipads, why? Any time they release numbers, it includes stuff they need and things they WANT. I want alot but I have to be responsible and realistic.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

We are being asked to finance computers and i-Pads with an 11 year bond. We will be paying for this long after the equipment is dead and buried. This does not make sense as the way to fund this type of purchase.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:17 a.m.

The bond addresses this by using three phases. They understand that technology changes and needs to be upgraded. The phases will allow them to spend the money where and when it is needed.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

Since the high schools have cut busing, I wonder if there has been a study of how many students have wrecked their cars on the way to and from school, and been injured. I know of quite a few personally, and think it would be a good idea to poll the kids before school is out to see how many have wrecked cars, gotten tickets and injured themselves on the way to school. It is awful the way the buses have been cut. I think I would rather see the buses return then to worry about kids over using the WiFi. Really, I know recent college grads who made it through with no WiFi connection. Lets get back to the safety and welfare of our children first, and frivolous technology fifth or sixth.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

Um, paying attention? We can't raise money for buses!!! We are not allowed to!!! Proposal A made sure of that. This millage allows us to upgrade the infrastructure for computers, which we need and will be done regardless of the millage. If the millage doesn't pass, it's even MORE cuts. The cuts currently proposed are if the millage passes.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

Points made in this discussion that people should really focus on: 1) AAPS didn't involve enough outside experts in K-12 education with technology to ask for these funds. 2) Discussion of electronic textbooks is a joke. Even U of M hasn't yet implemented them because there haven't been enough studies yet to understand whether the kids learn well without physical books. And universities constantly update texts, while schools only do so every year. 3) We shouldn't be buying proprietary Apple products (iPads and MACS / iMACS when much less expensive non-proprietary technology is available. 4) What's the plan when junior drops and breaks a $500 iPad? 5) AAPS Administration is fat. Fat needs to be cut. 6) School board and district choose to avoid discussing things until they have to. Recently the head of the School Board expressed surprise at a mult-million account. SURPRISE. From the article - Another fund that may hold some solutions is the district-wide discretionary budget, which Allen said Wednesday is about $5 million. "This actually really concerns me," said President Deb Mexicotte. "And here I always thought we didn't have any really big chunks in our budget. But that's a big chunk … and for discretionary funds." If I ran a business like they run this school district, I'd go out of business. Clearly this was withheld from the November ballot to try and get it passed when no one was voting. That cost is $86,000. Isn't that most of a teacher for a year? Until they should fiscal responsibility, VOTE NO!


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

@A2comments - I think I'll respond on a point by point basis. 1. "AAPS didn't involve enough outside experts in K-12 education with technology to ask for these funds." You state this as a fact, and I would like you to back it up. How do you know who they did and did not involve in this process? Not only did they involve their own IT staff, some of whom I know personally and who have decades of experience in K-12 educational technology, they involved IT members from the community. If you read some of the past articles on this subject you will see this. 2. "Discussion of electronic textbooks is a joke..." While I do question the value of electronic textbooks for a number of reasons, I see a time coming soon when fewer and fewer traditional textbooks (or any other books) will be printed. I think the schools are right to begin considering this option. 3. "We shouldn't be buying proprietary Apple products (iPads and MACS / iMACS when much less expensive non-proprietary technology is available." - I do not necessarily agree or disagree with your stance here. 4. "What's the plan when junior drops and breaks a $500 iPad?" - The same thing it has been for when Junior drops a $1,000 laptop. And it happens frequently. 5. "AAPS Administration is fat. Fat needs to be cut." - We are in complete agreement on this item. 6. "6) School board and district choose to avoid discussing things until they have to." - I am in complete agreement. However, in order to change it we need to unseat the incumbents and political wannabes on the school board and vote in people who want to make positive change, not preserve 'golden cows' and the status quo. "If I ran a business like they run this school district, I'd go out of business." - This is an 'apples to oranges' comparison. In a business you do not have to accept any materials you are given to build your product.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Was that your plan when sending your kids through UM and they needed a new iPad, new computer, new iPhone, new whatever the latest technology was to help them be successful?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

Four separate issues: 1. Has AAPS shown enough good stewardship of its revenues to merit voters' support of a millage --- any millage? 2. Is the expense of putting technology into the hands of students the obligation of the community at large or individual parents? And, sure, I have no problem with schools maintaining a small supply of laptops to issue students who qualify for hardship assistance... 3. Is the most important element of the learning dynamic the teacher/student exchange or is it the amount of bandwidth or number of Smartboards available in a school building? 4. Is the race to keep up with what is available to a school from technology companies sustainable? How soon until AAPS has exhausted its tech budget and is back asking for more for "the good of the kids?" Maybe a wiser policy would be to find ways of being a "leader in education" that are economically sustainable and more in tune with what a "publicly funded" option should be (which is to say, frugal).

Wendy Valtadoros

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

I was a parent volunteer last year in a 3rd grade classroom. One teacher led 25 kids with lap-tops through an assignment to research a topic and compile a multi-media report. It was a great project. My opinion at the end of it was the kids didn't need the latest technology so much as they could have used an extra teacher (or two) to keep an eye on Google searches for "Venus" that led to swimsuit models instead of planets. Or an extra teacher could have directed kids drawing pictures on Paintbrush back to their research. The computers gave the kids access to information but weren't so great at answering questions.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.

I agree...most any teacher working with computers could really use an extra few adults to assist. Getting information from the internet does not come naturally to children; they need help in learning how to do it well. But they cannot have this lesson at all if/when the computers aren't there or cannot connect the network.

Susie Q

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

Voting the millage down will result in further cuts. Technology has to be periodically replaced and if the funding doesn't come from the bond and/or sinking fund; it will come out of the general budget.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

I sympathize. I would *love* to vote on a millage to put more teachers in the classroom. But because of PropA, all we can do it vote on technology and hope that it protects some classroom jobs by not forcing the administration to spend general fund money on technology.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

No way! Are you kidding me ? AAPS is RIDDLED with waste and instead of working to eliminate some of it to pay for ipads, they just think they can ask for more money in the name of it being "for the kids" GIVE ME A BREAK! Fat chance of me voting yes on this.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

I encourage you to write to the administration to address your issue with waste; voting no won't convey that message for you and it's a valid point. Voting no will just result in fewer teachers and bigger classrooms.

Marvin Face

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

I will be voting YES. Everyone I have talked to will be voting YES. Based on my past experience with my informal "poling", this will pass rather easily.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

Apple with its proprietary software is more expensive and lends itself to less creativity than PCs. A pc can run Linux (free) or windows and costs a whole lot less. You can buy bare bones kits for $300 or less and load them with both OS's. It seems to me that this school system is filled with fat especially at the top and is used to spending money like the rest of us had it. I'm voting no.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

That's all great in theory, but in practice a PC environment is MUCH harder and more expensive to maintain and much more vulnerable to hacking and vandalism (aka 'creativity'.) The Macintosh computers, while more expensive upfront, are robust, easy to use and easy to keep working. PCs are in place in the high schools where they are appropriate for career related education.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

The structural deficit is caused by the state pension plan. And Governor Snyder and the Michigan Congress have a bill to start addressing the issue of this. (A drastic change in the system!) The Ann Arbor Schools don't have any control over this. And I don't see the unions screaming anything right now except let's find ways to do more with less. This millage would be very helpful for teachers and their students. Ever since proposal A passed, we have been heading towards this moment. Let's not blame the local school districts... Ann Arbor has actually done a lot better than most! I'm going to definitely vote yes!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

^^^ Gets it ^^^


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

I can support the millage to upgrade the computer systems in our school district but not until the strutural deficit issues are resolved. the taxpayers have no faith in the administration. the only fix is painful cuts to teachers and administrators to get wages and benefits back in line. Just like the auto unions had to slash wages to $14/hour the school districts are going to have to do something similar and unlike the auto industry include those who have been there awhile. The unions will scream "you promised us this or that" but what was promised by the administration is now not economically sustainable. This can will get kicked down the road for years until it finally implodes and emergency finacial managers are put in place by the state because nobaody will want to face the threats of physical harm, recalls, and even death that will come if they actually did what has to be done. Same thing is going on in the federal government; kicking the can down the road until disaster forces our hand........lokk at Greece and other European countries which we are modeling ourselves after if you don't believe me.............


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

I'm really torn on this one. I really want our kids to have adequate technology at school. On the other hand, the way the district gives raises to top administrators, the way they cut essential programs that hurt kids but would not touch their own piece of pie just makes me feel that I don't want to give these people more money. Supporting education and supporting a particular spending habit are not the same thing.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

You raise a good point. I think schools will really need to think about what is "adequate" technology and what is a "luxury."


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

This school administration really needs to learn to live withing its budget. Always the same story, we need more for the kiddies. Sorry, there are limits on spending other peoples money! "Ann Arbor Public Schools receive more funds per student than any other school system around it. … And it is really offensive to me that they don't have the courage to put this on the November ballot. They are going to sneak it in the back door when turnout is low."


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Perhaps if the district made some efficiency upgrades - like consolidating some elementary and high schools, eliminated the bloated administration department / budgets, and proved they could properly manage the money they had, then I'd think about more positively about the millage. But, I'm reminded of the Skyline millage, and how the money spent on the new High School sure could have been put to better use for the basic needs of the district. Instead, it gave the administration the feeling that they could just tap the tax base and keep on keeping on. The failing of this millage will not fail the kids. Force the administration to make the efficiency changes, and then the money will be even more value added to the kids and won't be propping up a wasteful bureaucracy.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

I remain so happy that the frequent posters here on this site do not even remotely represent the view of the majority of Ann Arbor residents, who value our public schools and services. And once again, we will see how true that is on Tuesday.

Hot Dice

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

Hear, hear!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Almost all the infrastructure being discussed for Phase 1 of the Technology Bond can be / could have been paid for with sinking fund money. Of course, last year the school district spent those dollars on upgrading the varsity athletic facilities at Pioneer and Huron to match the palatial team rooms and field house at Skyline. When the sinking fund was passed, the fact that the district could use the general fund dollars it freed up to keep their technology more up to date was THE major reason I voted for it. I will and will continue to vote against ANY plan that borrows money for significantly longer than the useful life of the items to be built or purchased. Paying for computer technology that will be outdated in 3-5 years over 11-15 years is like buying an expensive dinner on as part of your car loan or mortgage, instead of out of today's cash flow, or even on a credit card where you will pay the bill by next month at the latest. School funding per pupil provided by the state of Michigan decreased last year for the first time ever. These "budget cuts" we keep hearing about are from the school district's PROJECTION of how much they would like to spend, not reductions in the funds they had the year before. Ann Arbor has plenty of money, and plenty of ways to improve the use of the technology they currently have, say by providing teacher training in how to use Inspiration to improve the references, structure and organization of written reports.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:47 p.m.

If you are referring to 2008, that may be correct. I don't know what Todd Roberts or Robert Allen may have said off the cuff in a meeting. It was not a central feature of the campaign, but at the time both ongoing physical plant upgrades and tech updates were coming out of the operating budget, since the bond was already committed and mostly spent. The sinking fund did take pressure off the operating budget - for all sorts of things. Little did we know at the time that our foundation allowance would be cut by more than 7% over the next four years. So, now, we've nursed the old tech equipment along as long as we can, and our operating budget is under even more pressure than it was back then. Frankly, I see the tech bond as a prudent move to preserve as much as we can of the strength of this district. If only the legislature would give us the ability to use the sinking fund for tech - then we could do this without paying interest and fees.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

Mr. Norton - I heard the superintendent at a sinking fund meeting promise "The sinking fund will allow us to keep technology current by taking pressure off the general fund". I heard Mr. Allan say the same thing at a school board meeting. I believe that promise is probably still on video tape at the community access tv.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Wow. OK - state law specifically prohibits sinking funds from being used for technology hardware. We could use sinking fund for the physical renovations (server closets and such) but not for the hardware. Second, I was co-manager of the 2008 campaign to renew the sinking fund, and we never made any such promises. In fact, the ballot language specifically said that we would be able to use the sinking fund for tech if state law changed. It did, however, take some pressure off the operating budget. Lastly, last year was not the first time that school funding decreased. Ann Arbor lost $233 per pupil when the 20j funds were cut in 2009, and there were mid-year prorations in 2003 and 2004, and almost in 2007. The budget cuts are not against what they would "like" to spend; they are cuts against the estimated cost of providing the same programs and services next year that we had this year. Did your utility rates, fuel costs, health care costs, and so on stay flat this year? Neither did mine. And neither did the costs AAPS must pay.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Why would the school district want to borrow money (to be paid back over as many as 11 years) to purchase equipment that will last 5-6 years at best?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

Mr. Norton - And all that has to happen is the board decides to change its mind and we have 11 year bonds. There is no way to stop the train once the vote is passed.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

All right, it's true that there is no time limit imposed in the ballot language proper. However, the ballot language (which is dictated by the details of state law) only gives the maximum allowed maturity, not the actual average maturity. If you look at the repayment schedule in the district's tech bond handbook, you will see that they have this already worked out. The average maturity of each series is less than the expected life of the bonds sold in that wave. The ballot language does give information about the millage level required to pay off the bonds, and that in turn is dependent on the repayment schedule mentioned above. Moreover, details like this need to be in the offering documents for the bonds and must be guaranteed in order to have a ratings agency pass on the bonds. So I think we can turn down the paranoia, please.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Steve, The language of the ballot proposal states explicitly: "The bonds may be issued in multiple series, payable in the case of each series in not to exceed 11 years from the date of issue of such series." Each "wave" has a retirement period that is authorized to last as many as 11 years FROM THE DATE OF ISSUE. A bond could be issued under this authorization in 2022, and could still be in repayment until 2033. According to the ballot language, there is no time limit placed on "the whole program." The only time limit that is explicitly stated in the proposal is a repayment period not to exceed 11 years from the date of issue of a bond series sold under this authorization. There is absolutely nothing in the ballot language that requires an accelerated repayment of these debts. Voters would do well to heed the lessons offered by the Water Street project on the substantial differences that can exist between what a taxing authority INTENDS to do with bond monies and repayments, and what the voters actually get stuck paying for. If the school district's intention is to repay the money over a much shorter period of time, then why didn't the school district write that into the ballot language? Caveat emptor.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

About maturities: that's not correct. The maximum term is less than 11 years, but they sell bonds with a range of maturities so that the average for each series is less than the expected life of the equipment it buys. They also sell a range of maturities so that the bonds don't all have to be repaid at once. As to how long this lasts: the ballot language is authorization to borrow a specific amount of money, and once that has been done, no more bonds can be issued under this authorization of the voters.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

AAite, Yes, the bonds may not all be issued at the same time, but the payback period for the bonds - whenever they happen to be issued - is 11 years from the date of issue. Bonds issued today will have an 11-year payback period. Bonds issued five years from now will still have an 11-year payback period, as will bonds issued 10 years from now. So again, the question remains. Why would you take 11 years to pay off something that is only going to last 5? If you can't see the logic in taking out a 20-year note on a car, what's the rationale for taking out an 11-year note on an iPad? While there is a stated limit on how long the repayment period is, there seems to be no defined time limit during when the bonds can be issued, so I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that this bond authorization will live on ad infinitum. Does this bond represent an essentially permanent debt service condition, where bonds can be issued for technology purchases anytime, as long as the combined value of all of the bond issues under this authorization does not exceed the maximum $45M limit? When, if ever, does the bond authorization expire? This seems like a perpetual debt that has a repayment period of more than twice the anticipated lifespan of the goods being bought.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

As I wrote above: the bonds will be sold in three "waves," with average maturities that are shorter than the expected lifespan of the equipment they purchase. The first round of bonds and purchases will focus on a lot of infrastructure spending. Later purchases are being left a little flexible to allow for changes in technology and need. It's the whole program that lasts ten years, and the longest bonds will mature in 10 years, but they sell bonds with a bunch of different maturities so that the repayment schedule is pretty flat over the whole period.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

If you went to one of the informational meetings, you would know the answer to that, which is that the bond covers a number of equipment purchases into the future, not just the immediate needs now.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

This bond is not a buy everything today and be outdated before the bond expires. It is for incremental upgrades to hardware to stay current enough to be useful.

Hot Sam

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

This is a good question Ypsi... Computers and technology should be an ongoing infrastructure should be in the everyday budget just like light and heat...


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

My biggest frustration is that courtesy of the legislature, a lot of our tax dollars go to other school districts. Additionally, we aren't able to have a millage to raise more money to be spent specifically within the Ann Arbor schools' general fund to help deal with budget issues. This millage is an opportunity for those in Ann Arbor to directly spend money on the Ann Arbor schools. My only disappointment is that it appears that the length of the bond will exceed the time in which the technology purchased will be useful. Perhaps the plan just isn't detailed enough for me to see that the computers will be purchased incrementally, and therefore, the lifespan of the technology will better reflect the lifespan of the bond. This is a more minor issue for me compared to the big picture. I'm voting "yes."


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

Mr. Norton - Please read the actual ballot language. Ypsiliving is right. Also if you read the ballot language, they can buy many things that have nothing to do with classroom computers. As I read it, if we wanted jumbotrons in the football fields it would qualify. I know that is not what the district says they want to do, but this is a long term millage and prior promises have been discarded after elections by the administration and board.

Basic Bob

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

"courtesy of the legislature, a lot of our tax dollars go to other school districts" The true voice of an Ann Arbor "Progressive": Keep your hands off of my stash.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Yes, the bonds will be sold in three "waves," with average maturities that are shorter than the expected lifespan of the equipment they purchase. The first round of bonds and purchases will focus on a lot of infrastructure spending. Later purchases are being left a little flexible to allow for changes in technology and need. It's the whole program that lasts ten years, and the longest bonds will mature in 10 years, but they sell bonds with a bunch of different maturities so that the repayment schedule is pretty flat over the whole period.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

The plan is incremental so technology is continually being updated. Not one big purchase now and then nothing for 10 years.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

NO! NO! NO!!!!!!!!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Its the opposite. Our infrastucture needs to get updated even if the bond doesnt pass. For bussing to have any chance, this bond needs to pass or we will be cuting even more to pay for technology needs (not wants). This bond will help save even more cuts.

Basic Bob

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Just wait, busing will be cancelled anyway. Outlying residents will just have to suck it up. CHS and raises for our overpaid administrators are also safe, even if it fails.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

iPads are just a small portion of the bond. Its not an iPad for every student. The infrastucture is very important and updating old technology.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:36 p.m.

Mr. Norton - The last of the 2004 bond money COULD have been used for the network pieces or for computers that could have allowed the program to move forward and a November ballot issue to be held, instead of spent on what it was spent on. Sometimes I feel like that money was spent, so that there would be NO MONEY available and no alternative but this millage. But, only once in a while.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

AMOC - that's simply not true. We could maybe use sinking fund money for the renovations work, but using it to by technology hardware (even fiber cabling and so forth) is clearly prohibited under state law. However, there are bills in the legislature that would allow sinking funds to be used for tech - please contact your representatives and ask them to move this bill!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

And almost all the infrastructure being discussed for Phase 1 can be / could have been paid for with sinking fund money. Of course, last year the school district spent those dollars on upgrading the varsity athletic facilities at Pioneer and Huron to match the palatial team rooms and field house at Skyline.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Why in the world would K-12 students need iPads? Declining enrollment should mean the school districts goes on a spending spree for things that do nothing to contribute to students' education.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

Actually, as a teacher myself, I have used my own iPad in the classroom on numerous occasions. They are especially great for students with fine motor problems. I teach music and have often had students use the GarageBand app to participate fully in class if they lacked the coordination to play other instruments. I know that most of the iPads schools now have are used for students with special needs, but they are widely known to be useful in the music classroom with apps like ScoreReader, Finale, Sibelius, Scorch, etc. and in a lot of other classroooms as well. I am thankful that I've been able to provide my own iPad in class- wouldn't it be great if every teacher had one they could use?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

"The people who support this millage" are not a homogeneous group, steven. I support this millage (and all other educational millages, frankly). I don't have kids in the AAPS anymore, but I value public education and having an educated citizenry in this state and country. I'm also pro-local control and this millage is one way for AA residents to get $1 into the schools for each $1 they pay in taxes -- not the $0.27 that we get back for our regular property taxes.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

OK, first of all, more than a third of all computers are used at the elementary level, and they are not there to teach about using computers. They are running important educational software that is helping struggling students get the extra help they need when we cannot afford to hire real people to help out in the classroom. Second, AAPS's enrollment is steady - that is not the source of the budget problems. The funding problems stem from the state government's huge cuts to education funding, in large part to pay for $1.7 billion in tax cuts to businesses. Like them or not, the state chose to give the money to business rather than schools. Finally, about textbooks: it's not about carrying them around. It's about the cost of purchasing and replacing those textbooks, which is paid entirely by the district. Out of the operating budget. Using electronic textbooks could save a lot of money up front and also allow us to change textbooks to keep up with the ever-changing state curriculum requirements without shelling out a huge amount for new books.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Rob - Students have lockers - they are fully capable of using them if they can't manage carrying a backpack. It's not my responsibility as a taxpayer to coddle some teenager who can't handle carrying a few books with a gadget that costs $500, while offering no savings on the cost of textbooks, and contributing nothing to the child's education. AAPS has already implemented parent/student online tracking with PowerSchool. The people supporting this millage don't give a damn about education, they just want their kids to have the latest gadgets, and something to differentiate them from the "undesirable" districts next door who can't afford such frivolous expenses. And they want us to pay to enable these already privileged children. Ridiculous.

Smilin Milan Dad

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

You are being asked to support a $46M bond to be able to continue to keep technology an active tool in education and your holdup is spending $14K on iPads. Really?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

9-12 students *could* use tablets of some kind to replace/supplement having to lug 40 pounds of textbooks around, for one. Or, they *could* use a centralized software source to track homework and their completion status. They *could* use it to help do research. Use your head - is anyone gonna give a kindergartner an iPad?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Technology, especially computer technology and software, gets outdated and is expensive to replace. With the school budgets cut to the bone there is no $$ in the current budget for technology updates. My kids go to Huron, the computers are ancient, crash all the time, and new software can't be purchased because the hardware is too old to support it. If Ann Arbor schools are to continue to provide a decent education for our children this situation cannot continue. Everyone, quit griping about money mismanagement, etc. The fact is there isn't enough money in the annually shrinking budget to run Ann Arbor schools. Yes, money could be shoved around better, not used to pay so many administrators, etc. But there still won't be enough to support new computers and IT. Period. And, these days, computers and IT are not luxuries, they are necessities. Please vote YES for the millage!


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

jmac - OBTW - with this millage, unless the software is bundled with the hardware, it can not legal be purchased. State law restrictions - only a very select few types of software can. And teacher training can not be purchased either. OBTW II - all the inservice days for training are allocated to other topics next year, so don't expect that teachers will get training on the new computers, unless they do it on their own time.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:33 p.m.

A2Reality - I am on the road and on a slow connection, there are a dozen threads here over the last 18 months where I did some of that analysis. I don't have the ability to even try until at least Monday when I am a location with a faster connection. Some of the documents I used have been removed from the AAPS website, so it may be Tuesday (and too late to help you) before I can do a complete analysis. I apologize, the job takes me where it takes me, and feeding my family has to come first.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

DonBee - Could you provide an analysis of the year-by-year tax burden that the Ann Arbor population has paid versus what it has received back from Lansing? Could you tell us if we are losing money each year compared to what we are paying (on a percentage basis)? Additionally, what rate are you using to effectively depreciate the funds that Ann Arbor is receiving from Lansing to account for cost of living / inflation?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

jmac - Only once 2011-2012 were the actual funds recieved by AAPS less than the prior year. Based on the information on the AAPS website. Current budget in Lansing is an increase for K-12 this year. Please tell me how a 1 year reduction in money is "constantly shrinking funds"?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Please vote no. The district is talking about budget cut-backs for next year, which might include eliminating bussing for high school students. I think it would be more important for the district to come up with a funding source to meet basic programs needs. I would prefer to see students be able to get to school and participate with the technology in place, than some kids not be able to attend because of transportation, and the kids that do get to school have a new iPad to play with. Research shows that instructional technology is generally not leveraged by teachers in ways that improve teaching and learning. Teachers leverage technology to entertain students. I agree with one comment, where are the metrics and the data to support that instructional technology has made a difference? The picture on this article is a bit deceiving. Newer technoloy is available at Community (Mac laptops).


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

I hope you realize that you could be cutting off the nose to spite the face here. If the millage does not pass, a good portion of these technology upgrades will inevitably have to be done anyway, which will come from the general fund and further cut in to the other programs you may hold in higher priority. Perhaps you would have voted for a millage if it supported other programs, but legally that is not possible. Local millages are not legally allowed to go in to the general fund or toward operation costs, but can apparently be applied to infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. Technology investments have to and are going to happen. If they come from the general fund, they pull more away from other programs. If you want to support these other programs with a local millage, the only way you can do it is by putting other things like technology investment under millage funding. This helps clear a bit more room in the general fund to support other programs which cannot be funded under local millages, and until the State starts coming back (or we can pass a county-wide millage) then there's not much other way.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

DC - Please read Rob's comment. Because of the laws in Michigan, we basically can't raise money within Ann Arbor through a millage to pay for items from the general fund. If we pass such a millage with that intent, then only a reduced percentage goes to Ann Arbor's schools; the rest gets spread out to other districts. The best way to help keep busing, etc. and to help the school budget is to pass this millage so that we can spend a millage specifically in Ann Arbor. By doing so, we'll get the technology expenses and capital investments out of the general fund leaving more money for buses, etc.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Wait, what? "The district is talking about budget cutbacks" - so by all means let's withhold additional money? Voting for this will eliminate the need to tap into the general fund, which will in turn reduce the imminent deficit.

Robot Charles

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

How do we know that giving kids various computers results in them being focused on learning and parents being more engaged in their education? What parts of the curriculum are lost in order to give kids time with all the proposed computers? We need an answer to why other countries spend less money per student and produce better educated students.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

PERFECT!!! Let's have a big study instead of spending less than a $100 per year to give our children better resources. I'm sure that study will be effectively conducted by the Ann Arbor district and will cost less money than the technology bond. I'm also sure that a more impoverished school system won't have any effect on your property values... certainly not more than $100 per year! I can't imaging how the computers and curriculum might be helpful... if only there were things like the internet, online classes... perhaps even a place where I could go search an almost endless source of information for researching papers, projects,etc. COME ON!!!!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

it might be because they're not constantly fighting people who think that education should be the first target on the budget chopping block


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

Come one people. I really don't think you understand the reality of the school district. Buildings are suffering. Staff are suffing. Students are suffering. We desperately need this tech bond. Our district heavily relies on technology and it is failing us. This money can ONLY go to technology and cannot be used for any other purpose. If people are worried about how the district spends money, this is one way to ensure that it is used for the purpose it's there for. Bond money is very restricted. $26-77? Really, you're going to nit-pick about that?? Really, I don't have an iPad so why should the students? Grow up. I don't know why the general public thinks that public school employees have not been suffering. Pensions are not under district control, the state controls that. Stop being angry at the people trying to educate our children. What is our world coming to?? We undervalue the price of our future workforce. I know staff members that have lost their homes, just like many others in the private sector. Stop talking like we have not been touched. It's easy to judge from the outside and from the knowledge you gain from ignorant comments made by the same people daily that have no clue. Yes, our district is top heavy. But trying to "stick it to them" by voting no, only hurts the staff and students in the buildings. Put your money where your mouth is and run for school board if you really want to make change.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

I see -- citizens who hold an opinion different from yours need to "grow up"? Stick to the facts, state your opinion, and understand that in a democracy, many voting taxpayers, all of whom have "grown up," will disagree with you. Your method of argument greatly detracts from your well-intentioned message.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

NO -- absolutely not. When the district is already $17.8 million in the red, you don't go out and borrow MORE $$ and suggest that incurring yet an even larger deficit is somehow going to solve any problems. AAPS needs to forget about adding yet more expensive bells & whistles to the schools when they should be focusing on enhancing core education in a financially difficult environment. When my household bills exceed my income, I focus on reducing non-critical expenses to balance my budget -- I don't go out, borrow even more $$, exacerbate the deficit and kick the can further down the road. The AAPS need to get a grip.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:31 p.m.

While we also pay off the 2004 bond fund which paid for the last round of computers. And with the wording of the actual bond proposal - NOT what the administration says they will do - but what the millage will allow them to do - we could have 3 or 4 rounds of 11 year bonds to go with the 2004 bond money to pay off for computers.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

That's the whole point of this - they are not borrowing money that will increase the deficit. We are being asked to approve a very small increase in property taxes that will be used to pay off the bonds. This program will help shrink the deficit, not make it worse, because it will pay for some things that otherwise would have been paid for from the general budget and make the budget problems worse.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

No taxes are already 1/3 of my house payment. A2 homeowners have a high enough tax burden...go ask the university. Side walks, parks, now this...we are in A recession people...


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

uabchris - You might want to consider the impact on your home's property value. If your increased tax burden will be $50 per year, you should consider if a poorly funded school district will be likely to negatively affect your property value by more than $50 per year... if so, you'll come out ahead.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

1/3 of your house payment every month? You must have an insanely small house payment and therefore can afford the six bucks or so per month this will cost.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

if you want your home to retain that value you need to maintain the high level of education in the public school system. schools are the biggest influence on home value.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:12 a.m.

Guess it's better than millions for City Hall art!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:09 a.m.

I'm sick of the AAPS being starved of cash by Lansing and PropA. This is a local control issue, so let's take local control. I've been to an info meeting, I've looked at the plan. If the district doesn't get the money from the millage, at least some of it is going to come out of the general budget. So it's all very fine to say, "there is waste there somewhere", but without the millage, you are going to get bigger classrooms and fewer teachers. I'm voting for the millage.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:29 p.m.

dotdash - If you add up special education, sinking fund, bond fund, title I, title II, grants, hold harmless funds, and the state grant - I think you will find the total is closer to $14,000 than the $9,000 you are quoting. I am on the road, on a slow connection and away from my research, so I can't give you an exact number, for which I apologize.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

I'm not saying other districts are not also starved. I'm saying Ann Arbor is starved. All Michigan schools are starved. There are states that average over $16,000 per pupil and some districts that average over $23,000; Ann Arbor schools, even with their "hold harmless" supplement, only got $9500 in 2010-2011. So our education funding is puny, frankly, and it's odd to hear people complain incessantly about how much the schools cost.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Starved? AAPS gets more than ANY other district in the county and more than 90% of the districts in the state. How is that starved?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:07 a.m.

I was considering voting yes for this, until I just read that they want to buy ipads and macs. Im sorry, but not on my dime! And we're doing these kids a disservice teaching them on macs... The majority of businesses and colleges use PCs!!! They should have also learned the lesson to NOT BUY these, but lease them so they're not outdated every 4 years...


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

J. A. Pieper - Where do you teach in AAPS? I am guessing that you are posting under a pseudonym (J. A. Pieper), as the name does not show up in either the district's directory or by doing a search of the AAPS web site for the string "pieper". Of course, it could be that you are not being truthful, and are just using this venue as a cover to rabblerouse...? But, then, aren't we all?

J. A. Pieper

Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1 a.m.

Sound amplifiers were installed in my building less than four years ago. They are scheduled to be replaced with this tech bond. I use mine, I am very careful with it, and I see this as one of the "wasteful" items that AAPS really does not need. It is almost as if AAPS has to be able to say, "we have new ..." and this makes for a "better" school district. Many of the neighboring school districts built new high schools, so AAPS just had to have one too. Would I like to update my kitchen, or bathroom? You bet I would, but I know that I can't afford to do either one of those, so I live with what I have. How many of us can go to our employer and say, "hey, I need to ..., so I need a raise." Fat chance of that happening, we have to live within our budget, and some of us are wise enough to know we just can't keep borrowing money .


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

Mr. Norton - Again it may not have been in your talking points, but it is in my notes from the meetings I attended. I don't have access to the video tapes from the board meeting, but I have it underlined in my notes. It is the KEY reason I voted for the sinking fund, not to use it to pay for new Varsity locker rooms that most students in that high school will never been allowed to set foot in.

Hot Sam

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

@ Kathryn...whats wrong with them? Why would they all need to be replaced???

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

Once again, DonBee, I don't know where you have evidence to support your claim that the sinking fund was sold on the premise it would allow technology to be paid from the general fund. I co-managed the 2008 renewal campaign, and wrote much of the campaign material, and that's not what we said. Note, also, that a lot has changed in the last four years vis-a-vis school funding.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

The sound fields are not just for improving the sound of voices but are part of the overall AV system for display of all AV materials in the room. The systems are used in almost every classroom.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Mr. Norton = That was the promise of the sinking fund. To take the pressure off the general fund, so it could fund technology. It was WHY I voted for the sinking fund. To take the pressure off and allow technology to be current in the classroom. Now they want to add yet another tax to do that. The sinking fund money was to cover costs that were in the general fund at the time, so general fund money could be used for technology, since the sinking fund could not directly buy computers, but it could buy additional data center space, network upgrades, and many other items in this bond - just not the computers. OBTW - unless the software comes bundled with the computers, or it meets some very specific requirements, it too can not be bought with this technology millage. So no training, only some specific types of software are able to be bought. Most of the "Apps" for the iPads will have to come out of the general fund, unless they get Apple to bundle them.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Kind of sad to see the "platform wars" being revived here. Check out the hardware in use at UM - a lot of Macs in their system. In any case, modern Intel-based Macs can also run Windows in a separate partition, if you need access to that. (I don't, and I run my own business.) This is about software, long-term cost of ownership, and flexibility. Plus you can't lease equipment with a bond, which would remove one key benefit - reducing the pressure on the operating budget.

Hot Sam

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

I'll offer another thought...have you been made aware of the fact that the majority of classroom intelligibility issues are due to poor acoustics and not volume?

Hot Sam

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

@ Garrison...I am a Certified Technology Specialist...I sell the them, I specify them...I know of all the benefits, and all the point is not to deny them where they will point is that not all use or need them, and when they are not properly cared for the taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize the abuse...


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

@Hot Sam, I'd suggest you read up on the effects of classroom sound amplification systems on just about every aspect of learning that happens in a classroom. It might enlighten you as to why they're needed in more classrooms.

Hot Sam

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

Also...take a look at "sound amplifiers in classrooms" wasn't long ago these were purchased, and if they have been taken care of should be fine...if some are broken, I believe there would still be plenty for those who actually use them...the idea that things need to be in every classroom...used or ridiculous.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

NO. The head of the School Board expressed surprise at a multi-million dollar account. May's annual benefit package included no costs for staff to evaluate, necessitating a future mailing to provide that info. Waiting until November would have ensured a larger turnout and ,such lower costs. Vote NO and get all your friends to vote.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

eom - I will not argue that technology is important. I will however point to the Board of Education priority for the last dab of bond money, money that was Ok'ed for technology as well as building Skyline. That last dab (a paltry few million dollars) was spent on a new set of Varsity Locker rooms and a Varsity Weight Room. Neither was in the original bond fund. Based on the way this millage is written, they Board could buy jumbotrons for the football fields at the high schools - that is not what they say they will do - but they could. Why did they not prioritize technolgy for your classroom and all students above the Varsity Building boom?


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

I'm also a teacher in this district and am appalled that people can't understand that technology is necessary in our profession. Without upgrades, our computers will be rendered useless. When we DO upgrade, where do you think that money is going to come from? Higher class sizes, teacher lay-offs, budget freezes (ever try teaching without paper, pencils, books, math journals?) There are strict rules about how this money can be spent. The district has done a nice job of explaining the phases (keeping in mind technology will continue to change over the next ten years...) and despite your feelings about how they handle the money, we're cooked if this doesn't pass. I can't wait to hear the complaints when your kid is in a class of 40 or 50. If you think there are problems with how the district spends their something about it. But please, don't take this money away from our kids. People get new phones every TWO years...why? The technology has made such vast improvements - making your "old" phone a dinosaur. Without upgrades, our computers will soon become paper weights. If your doctor was using outdated machines, wouldn't that bother you!? In order to get new things (constantly) people need to purchase updated technology and machinery. It's not about admin and their pay raises, it's about educating our children!

J. A. Pieper

Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

DonBee, I am a teacher, and I will not be voting yes, I see too much waste in AAPS to give them more of my $$$$. So please don't generalize that teachers are going to go along and vote for what the district wants.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

Nonsense, not it is not nonsense Mr. Norton, you and others had identified technology as an issue, the board had as well. May is a run and hide and hope only teachers vote in the election strategy.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

DonBee, that's nonsense. Nearly the entire top tier of leadership in the district was new, some folks not being hired until well into the fall. Supportive citizens like me urged them not to rush but to take the time to fully flesh out the plans and explain what they hope to do to the people of Ann Arbor. I'm on the millage committee, and, believe me, we are trying as hard as possible to get people to turn out for this election. We DO NOT want a lower turnout. I believe that a larger turnout will show that the people of Ann Arbor want to support our schools and support this proposal.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

They could have put it on the ballot for last November, but decided on a special election that the school has to fund the cost of. They wanted a smaller turn out. Typical politics to keep the voters away from the issue.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Waiting until November would mean a full year's delay in moving forward with the program. School property taxes are paid in July and December. They want to start moving on this for the 2012-13 school year.

John Callewaert

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:48 a.m.

The need is clear but after studying this plan for several months, asking questions of the board and AAPS, and attending information sessions, I'm finding it very hard to support the millage. As far as I can tell, no external K-12 instructional technology experts have reviewed this plan or provided input. The plan contains some wonderful goals but I see no path for getting from the basic infrastructure fixes needed at present to those goals. It's also based on the 2009-2012 technology plan which has some wonderful benchmarks but no assessment of whether those benchmarks have been met or not. For $46 million there needs to be a much more rigorous review with specific and quantifiable benchmarks.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

@Leo - The life of the bond covers approx. 2.5 full refreshes of those computers, which brings those numbers well into line. As for comments about training, AAPS generally offers several classes every month that staff can choose to attend outside of regular business hours. WISD also offers some training opportunities. As far as teachers claiming not to be familiar with Inspiration, I would argue that, with as long as it has been in use in the district, they should have figured it out by now. Inspiration is a fairly intuitive program, and with the resources available to them (savvy workmates, district help desk, free tutorials available on the internet), they should be able to get a handle on it. People who want to learn something find a way. As for principals who do not know how to use presentation software and projectors, refer to what I said about Inspiration.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

"•Replacing 8,142 of the district's 8,250 computers at a cost of about $25 million" Let us do a simple math: $25,000,000/8142=$3070.49 What kind of compter cost more than $3000 for school use? Independent investigators are needed to see what's going on ...

J. A. Pieper

Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

DonBee, our professional development for the next school year will be related to the achievement gap, and the "discipline gap," priorities of the highly overpaid new superintendent. Oh, and just so the public knows, all that bond money that the schools used to update all schools after building the new high school, they used the lowest bidder, so our paint is peeling, the carpet is splitting at the seams, you get the picture. Did they use the lowest bidder for anything at Skyline? Cork floors, beautiful tile on the walls... is anything falling apart there?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

Mr. Norton - Some do, but others don't. I go to PTO meetings and other school meetings and watch teachers and administrators struggle with getting slides on the screen, they tell the group that they don't know how to use software. The lastest is a teacher who said they don't use Inspiration in their classroom for outlining because they have never been trained on it, even though it is the standard outlining software for the district and they have a district wide license. You are right, some teachers are excellent at using computers, and some are not. Training should be a priority for teachers who are not and this millage CAN NOT be used to pay for it. Yes, the district agreed to renew the contract for roughly $200,000 or roughly 200 computers. Just a drop in the bucket of the $5 million dollar administrative discretionary fund.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

DonBee, I'd like to know where you find admission after admission that "teachers don't know how to use the technology." Many teachers are doing wonderful work with it. I admit, the old way of doing PD is probably not productive, and fostering professional contact among teachers would be a more useful way to spread knowledge and encourage experimentation. That's part of the plan as well. And I don't know how much training it requires to use wireless, a fiber backbone, or server closets. Most of the laptops in schools are new(er), so replacing the older desktops will not bring us into uncharted territory. We will have to agree to disagree on PEG. I know people in the district who feel PEG has sparked important work (the Equity and CARE teams) to examine how we interact with and teach students from different economic and cultural backgrounds. Given the schools' mission to provide an excellent education to every student, I would think people would applaud that kind of work. In any case, the annual amount spent was small and the board has, I believe, decided not to renew their contract. Please drop the red herring.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Mr. Norton - Riddle me this, all this new technology and no training for teachers. The technology bond money can NOT be legally spent to provide training. The admission in meeting after meeting has been the teachers do not know how to effectively use the technology. The money and in service days have instead been going to PEG. No inservice days are currently planned for next year to train the teachers to use the technology. So we buy this stuff and it sits? Makes as much sense as how bond money this year was prioritized.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

This reminds me of a Dilbert strip where Dilbert is trying to get approval for a new workstation and is denied because he can't make a business case for it. He says he shouldn't have to justify his basic working tools and asks if he is supposed to make a business case for his desk chair as well. Naturally, he returns to his cubicle to find that they've taken his chair away. They have instructional IT people on staff, they have worked with the corresponding person from WISD, and have consulted with a group of local technology experts. How many reviews do you want? How much would you think they should pay to bring in hired guns to review the plan? Wouldn't they get in trouble then for "wasting money on consultants"? Lets be reasonable, please.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:46 a.m.

We all have to deal with outdated technology, welcome to the real world Ann Arbor students! Why should my tax dollars buy you better computers and fancy iPads when I don't have them?!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Then why did they prioritize sports facilities over classroom technology? The funds could have legally been spent that way.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Who's talking iPads? Do you run your business with hardware that is seven years old and no longer supports nearly any current software, including the operating system? Sure, in small business we nurse our computers along as long as we can, but there is a limit. AAPS has reached, and passed, this limit.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

so that the next generation isn't compiled of uneducated dimwits who don't know how to use advanced technology

J. A. Pieper

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:43 a.m.

Let's all go vote no on this millage, AAPS needs to continue to live within its budget as all of us have to do!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

No Mr. Norton - We are operating from the same facts. The 2004 bond fund is exhausted. The last of it going into Athletic facilities that were not listed in the bond. Roughly (we have to wait for next year's audit to know, if then) $3 to 8 million of bond fund was spent that way instead of for technology - which was listed on the 2004 bond. The sinking fund money can be used for data closets, network upgrades, and a number of other items in the technology millage list. We both know this is true. I have in other comments said clearly that the computers can NOT be bought with sinking fund money. BUT - the sinking fund was supposed to free up general fund money to allow it to be used to keep technology current. I double checked my notes from the meetings - in both cases, the comments are underlined in my notes. So you may not have said it, it may not have been in YOUR talking points, but it was said to the public in public forums. You and I must be looking at different budget documents from Lansing, so can you provide a link to document you are referencing for next year's budget? As to a 7 percent cut, I agree is an issue, but 7 percent is not 25 percent which is what I keep hearing people say.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

DonBee, I guess your "facts" and mine simply don't match. First of all, the "bond" money you speak of, from the 2004 bond, is now gone. The sinking fund cannot be used to purchase technological hardware. And NO bond money, OR sinking fund money, can be used in the classroom (except to make structural renovations). That's state law. As I say below, I helped run the 2008 sinking fund renewal campaign, and I know we made no such promises. All we argued was that regular upgrades and improvements could be covered by the sinking fund instead of waiting for a bond. The ballot language at that time also allowed the sinking fund to be used for technology IF state law made that possible. Finally, state funding will not go "up" this year - the governor's plan and the House and Senate versions are nearly entirely flat. AAPS's foundation allowance has fallen more than 7% since 2008-09 - from $9,723 that year to $9,020 this year. So yes, there have been pretty serious cuts, since even before, state aid to AAPS did not keep up with inflation. In your business, do you assume that utility, fuel and health care rates will not go up? The budget cuts are based on those projections.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Mr. Norton - We have the bond and sinking fund already. Much of that money is being directed out of the classroom to Varsity Sports. Large amounts of the general fund are being directed to Varsity Sports and Consultants, some of whom have caused unrest in the community (e.g. PEG). More than $12 million in the 2010-2012 time period could have been spent on technology legally from these funds and was not. The promise of the sinking fund, repeated over and over again during the pre-election run up was "passing the sinking fund will free up the money in the general fund to keep the technology current". This one now seems to be headed to the same pile of promises that Skyline's staffing was promised on "we will only need to hire 19 new employees to completely staff Skyline, the rest will be transfers". The cut to state funding was 3 percent (just under that actually) - this is not a "HUGE" cut. This year it looks like the state funding will go UP. Only in 2011-2012 in the last decade has the total revenue to AAPS fallen.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Um, AAPS are OUR community schools, and we should get to decide how much we want our schools to have. Unfortunately, we are not able to control the operating budget, which is set by the state legislature. Funds to K12 were cut in part to pay for a huge reduction in business taxes. Regardless of what you think of that, it doesn't mean that education is less important, and it didn't happen because of uncontrolled spending. The state cut our funding. Period.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:34 a.m.

Isn't that an iMac?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

eMacs were the old CRT iMacs designed and sold for the education market. As "Milan Dad" observes, Apple no longer sells or actively supports these machines. For those who know about such things, all the eMacs used PowerPC processors, which have been abandoned by Apple when they moved to the Intel platform. The last two major revisions to the OS cannot run on PowerPC, and a shrinking number of programs are still being made in "universal" versions that will run on both. I use Macs in my work, and I finally bailed on PowerPC machines a couple of years ago (and I was very much a "late adopter").

Smilin Milan Dad

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

Nope. Those are eMacs and are Obsolete as defined by Apple Inc., "Obsolete products are those that were discontinued more than seven years ago. Apple has discontinued all hardware service for obsolete products with no exceptions. Service providers cannot order parts for obsolete products."


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:30 a.m.

I am curious which jobs are included in the "800 administrators and support staff." The number seems unreasonably high and inflammatory.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

countrycat - The numbers WERE in the building by building spending document that used to be on AAPS website. They are no longer there. Given the current student teacher ratio being quoted at board meetings there are roughly 600 classroom teachers from a 1000+ member union local. AAPS has refused on privacy grounds to release numbers under Freedom of Information.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

Where can we find a breakdown of FTEs of teachers, administrators, and staff at AAPS?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:23 a.m.

No! No! No! They do not properly spend they money that they now have! No! No! No!


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

@Leo - The life of the bond covers approx. 2.5 full refreshes of those computers, which brings those numbers well into line. Far all those complaining about iPads - The district will be investigating ways that these less expensive devices can fill instructional purposes and take the place of more expensive laptops. I have heard from a reliable source inside the district's ITD that there are a minimal number of these devices included in the first wave. However, they are hoping that as the technology of tablets matures they may be implemented in a number of roles. Also, much of this information was available at the public forum.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

"•Replacing 8,142 of the district's 8,250 computers at a cost of about $25 million" Let us do a simple math: $25,000,000/8142=$3070.49 What kind of compter cost more than $3000 for school use? Independent investigators are needed to see what's going on...

J. A. Pieper

Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

DonBee not to mention a highly overpaid administrator who goes home to Pennsylvania for a long weekend, so she only works four days a week.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

I am reluctantly considering voting new on the plan, since it is obvious $86,000 was wasted holding the special election, and paying that much extra for the new superintendent over her predecessor, she can't hold a candle to the person she replaced. Danielle, thanks for the well researched and complete article you have written. Bravo to you.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

While I do not disagree that money is often spent improperly by the school board (not a big fan of the new expensive superintendent either) but I do know that voting against a milage only ends up hurting the kids (less teachers, less technology, less extra-curricular options, less money for PD for teachers...etc). If you are upset with the school board their money management you should vote them out or run for the board yourself. But voting against a milage is not the right way to send a message to the board.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

amlive - $12 million that could have been spent on this area (bond and sinking fund) was instead spent on a new Varsity Weight Room at one high school and new locker rooms for Varsity sports for outside sports (the ones at in the school building were not close enough I guess). They spend over $3 million a year supporting Varsity sports - if it was physical education for all, it would not be as big an issue. They have a $5 million dollar fund the administration uses for things like the Pacific Education Group (PEG) and the Southfield retired administrators that are running all over the schools. In short there is money that is not well targetted.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

I find it astounding that people can still find ways to justify believing this. Fact is that even if this argument had any truth to it 10 years ago, school funding and resources have been continually slashed since then, and we are long past the point of cutting in to the bone in my opinion. Cuts have already gone far beyond affecting only the lives of school staff through layoffs and wage reductions, and have moved well in to the realm of directly affecting quality of education of the students themselves. Of course there's a bit of a lag before effects on this generation of students will be felt in the community overall, but I hope we don't wait until we're dug even further in our hole before enough people realize the ramifications. It's a shame that so much of the money lost is being cut from the State level to go back to corporate welfare programs, but this means local communities are having to step up to make up at least a small portion of the difference if they care about their future. Plus with drops in property values, it's not as this would actually even be a raise in property taxes paid, but rather a return closer to what we were paying 5 years ago.