You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:56 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools to seek 0.5 mill tax for technology upgrades

By Ben Freed

The Ann Arbor Board of Education decided on Wednesday night to attempt to bolster the district’s funding for computers and technology by seeking a new 0.5 mill tax.

The board voted unanimously to direct the superintendent to move forward on writing a millage request that will be brought to Ann Arbor voters on election day in November.

Thumbnail image for robert_allen.JPG

Robert Allen

According to Robert Allen, deputy superintendent of operations of Ann Arbor Public Schools, the AAPS finished phase one of a complete refresh of the district’s hardware in 2009, with the idea that phase two would begin two years later. Having reached that deadline, the district does not have the money to make the necessary upgrades.

“We have the [old] bond money that we used up,” Allen said. “We’re not allowed to use sinking fund money for technology, so at this time we have to start considering other options in terms of funding technology.”

Much of the debate on Wednesday revolved around whether the proposed millage should be Ann Arbor specific or part of a larger county-wide effort.

Christine Stead, a board of education trustee, worried that pulling the trigger too soon could lead to back-lash later from the community.

“I worry that it will be difficult to go back any time in the next year or so to go back to anything else,” she said. “We’re foregoing an opportunity to go to our community and ask for what we really need. We need education to be funded, and we need to not have to cut programs that are important.”

As the evening progressed, support for a millage for the November ballot increased among trustees. According to Allen, the district will need $30.8 million over the next 10 years to offset the cost of replacing outdated technology.

“There is technology that has to be replaced every three years, other hardware has a five-year life, and some things take seven years to break down,” he said. “We have to look at it over the longer term to figure out what it’s really going to cost.”

The details of the bond are still unclear. In order to be on the ballot in November, the board has an August 16th deadline to submit the official wording.

The 0.5 mill request would cost the owner of a $200,000 home assessed at $100,000 an additional $50 per year in taxes.

Most board members agreed that the millage is needed, but were hesitant to go to the voters for an increase in taxes during the economic downturn. Eventually, Dr. Patricia Green, AAPS’s new superintendant, summed up the feelings of most board members.

“It will be a big challenge, but the bottom line is, it’s right for the district,” she said. “Everybody has to roll up their sleeves and work together to make it happen. What isn’t a challenge? We’re working with children here.”

Ben Freed is a summer intern at You can reach him by email at or by phone at (734)-623-4674. Follow him on Twitter @BFreedInA2.


Corey Lord

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

Although public schools in this state have not been the most efficient in spending for a long time, this is a good move. The kids need to learn in a high-tech environment in order for them to be competitive in the future. To deny them this would be a mistake. To me everyone, who is against this proposal just cares about themselves and their little world. Taxes are not a bad word when they are used for something like this.

Corey Lord

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

Furthermore, when a new tax is introduced we should analyze the value for the taxes that are being asked. Don't just say "no" because its a new tax. This will be beneficial to these kids and provide AAPS with a tool that will make the students more competitive. That has a lot of value. The return these students could possibly provide is by far more than a measly .5 mill tax.

haulin donkey

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 5:46 a.m.

To all you AAPS lovers; if you want to keep dumping money down a rat hole use your own. there is nothing stopping you from writing a check for whatever amount you think fair. Just keep your hands off my money. that's right. it's my money, not yours.

Dog Guy

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 1:01 a.m.

How you vote does not matter. We tax parasites and our families are the great majority of Ann Arbor voters. Additionally, we own the phrase, "for our children," which is good for a few votes extra. The only thing to catch my attention in this piece is a (perhaps unintentional) insulting comment by a student, Rachel: "Additionally, teachers are grossly underpaid." You may all be assured that we teachers know how to get money.


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

Ann Arbor definitely needs to be more creative in seeking alternative funding sources. I'm not familiar with the intricacies of the law, but with state funding plummeting any prohibitive laws regarding private funding should be amended. We should be seeking grants and corporate sponsorships. While Pioneer's athletic facilities may be name after esteemed coaches, there's still naming opportunities for Skyline...the The Google Media Center? the Pepsi Natatorium? Private donations from AAPS alumni should be sought. My kids have had memorable experiences playing high school sports and I would continue to donate specifically to those sports programs after they graduate.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

@Eyeheart, what happens to your numbers when you figure in the $454 decrease in foundation allowance for the 2011-12 school year?


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

I would imagine they would go down by $454, or more, or less, depending on "other sources of revenue. Sorry, those are the latest real numbers available. I cited my sources.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

Why be accountable when you can just tax the people more???????


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

What about seeking grants? Or working with the Ann Arbor Public Schools Education Fdn on a technology initiative? This seems like something concrete that corporate and private donors would want to donate toward. AAPS needs to get creative and proactive, rather than campaign for a millage in the eleventh hour - again!!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 5:15 a.m.

These are valid points. I can see, however, why a guaranteed stream of income (if it passes) to repay bonds gives the district more security than depending on annual fundraising. However, I know the Educational Foundation would love to have the resources to fund these kinds of projects. Please consider donating to their current campaign.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

@ghost; I'm going to go with apples and apples. 1. The AAPS is crying poor. Where the money comes from doesn't matter. They have it and it all spends the same no matter where it comes from. In fact, if the feds want to give them money, it only stands to reason the state should cut funding to keep total spending in line. 2. I cited the source of my calculator, you can use yours if you like, but we are just arguing over a few nickels. But if you want to call it $12800, fine. 3. I used the latest data available at the state level. I recently discovered I can't trust what the AAPS call a &quot;budget&quot; to give me an unbiased number. Maybe you can show us where your number came from. I looked and I can't find anything remotely resembling any of the numbers in the state report in the AAPS numbers. 4. Again, see point number 1. Additionally, (in theory anyway, neglecting deficit spending &lt;= funny that), all the money comes from taxpayers. Regarding the " the state has not kept the promise it made with the passage of Prop A,". I wholeheartedly disagree. There were many promises made and I don't remember any one being the no school district would ever see less money coming to it when adjusted for inflation. Maybe you can point that out for us? I do remember promises to cut property tax, reign in spending, prevent pensioners from losing their home do to inflated assessments and equalize school funding across districts etc. I would say those goals were all achieved. Here is a refresher for you on that (admittedly done during the Engler regime) : 1. Reduce property taxes. 2. Improve school funding equity. 3. Implement various reforms to improve the quality of education. 4. Redefine state and local government relations. - You will have to reference the pdf file below for addition definition on the above, as my post was character limited. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

Mr. Norton - Many of the school board members were elected in elections with 10 to 12 percent of the voters turning out. Several of recent bond issues that passed saw voter turnouts well less than 30 percent. What is your point. If the issue is hotly contested (like the last Presidential Election) the voter turn out is high, if the issue is not hotly contested it is low. Polling for Proposition A at the time it was passed showed strong support across the state. So, many people stayed home. Typical voting pattern.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 5:11 a.m.

JA Peiper - different people may chose to spend their money differently. But how do you know that these people are &quot;poor&quot;? Their spending patterns would seem to indicate otherwise. What &quot;indicators&quot; do you use? You also seem to have great insight into the household possessions of these &quot;poor&quot; people. One only wonders how you do your research. Basic Bob - agreed, Prop A was passed in a state-wide election. But please remember that it was a majority of the 30% of the registered electorate who bothered to turn out for a February special election. (And that was before &quot;motor voter&quot; bills pumped up registration rates.) Hardly overwhelming.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 12:32 a.m.

More of a reply to Rachel - increasing the state sales tax is tough on everyone! I see &quot;poor&quot; families with more expensive cars than I could ever afford, and don't get me started on all the game systems they have in their homes, or the expensive athletic shoes that I couldn't afford for my children.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 9 p.m.

@Rachel, Many people have issues with Prop A, but it is the law as passed by the voters of the state. The majority of people felt that it was more fair than the previous system of funding, especially to the poorest districts who did not benefit from high property tax values. Previously, the poor districts would not be able to raise adequate revenue no matter the millage, and schools would suffer. Now, schools are funded by both property AND sales tax, affecting the rich AND the poor. It has been working remarkably well for 17 years.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:33 p.m.

I have one problem with Prop A, and that is how it is funded. Increasing the sales tax hurts the poor the most.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

I attend Ann Arbor public schools, and I can visibly see the effects of less money. Not only are their cut services, but it demoralizes teachers and other staff members. In regards to this millage, I need more information. Additionally, teachers are grossly underpaid--but then again, if you want to see students in the classroom watching a television for 8 hours a day instead of getting learning instruction, by all means cut their pay! (heavy sarcasm here)


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 12:08 p.m.

Rachel - Right now the teachers in Michigan are in 4th best place in the 50 United States for pay compared to the cost of living, this according to the American Federation of Teachers (A Teacher's Union). Right now AAPS teachers are paid at near the top of all districts in the state. Yes, Ann Arbor is a more costly place to live and so that takes some of that money. The average teacher costs the district (Pay, Benefits, Retirement Contribution, etc) roughly $104,000 - that is the average of all teachers - some cost more, some cost less. THIS IS NOT SALARY, but total cost. Pay ranges from just less than $40,000 for a brand new teacher to over $87,000 for a teacher at the top of the pay chart. This does not include money they are paid for points. Points are what they get for coaching teams or other activities that are done outside the normal school day. The football head coach makes about $6,000 additional dollars for coaching the football team. I would check with your parents and see what they make and also what some of your friend's parents make to try and calibrate how rich or poor your teachers are. According to Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) to be RICH in Michigan a HOUSEHOLD (not an individual) needs to earn $80,000 a year. So if two 3rd year teachers were married to each other and filing a joint income tax form they would be by Rep. Irwin's bill in the state house be considered rich. A top of the scale teacher living alone would also be considered rich by Rep. Irwin.


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 3 a.m.

Um, very true, terribly underpaid.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 8:31 p.m.

Um, not true, teachers are not grossly underpaid.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

Only $50 additional dollars on my current tax bill, doesn't sound like a lot to support education, but when my escrow account has to keep asking me for more funds, this means that I have less funds to spend otherwise, further limiting my spending to support the economy. I have refinanced to get my payment lower and more affordable, but these additional &quot;minimal&quot; tax increases keep raising my payment. I do believe that the AAPS uses my tax dollars efficiently and will be voting NO in November. I will also be encouraging my neighbors and family to do the same thing. We are all struggling to make ends meet, and just can't keep giving. We don't have someone else to go to to ask for more money and have to live within our tightened budgets, wake up AAPS, you need to consider doing the same thing!

Joel A. Levitt

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

Mr. or Ms Pieper, I hope that you have more information than I. I as yet don't have enough to decide on how I will vote. As to facing higher taxes when income is tight or missing due to unemployment, many have always faced this problem and many more face it today, during our present economic crisis. It is not just real estate taxes which tax both those who can pay and those who cannot. It is also our non-progressive sales tax, our other excise taxes and our income tax. Please consider supporting efforts to remedy this situation by reforming our entire tax system.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

Excuse me &quot; Inefficiently&quot;


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

Sorry APSD you need to come up a solution other than asking the public for more money.


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 3 a.m.

Why? It's the correct solution.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

Before I vote yes or no, I would really like to see the plan. How do they know how much, if any, money they need before they define what it is they need? Hey, give me a grant for $100,000.00, then I'll figure out what to do with it . . .


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

I'm with jmac on this one. I have read every comment on here and I totally understand and can agree with what both the &quot;no's&quot; and the &quot;yes's&quot; are all saying. Yes, I am angry at AAPS for mistakes and mismanagement of funds. Yes, I am angry for what I think are stupid decisions especially those that harm students. Yes, technology is obsolete when you &quot;drive it off the lot&quot;. Yes, a lot of people have technology at home and in their pockets (or under their desks where they think the teacher - whose meager salaries are not outrageous, btw - can't see them). Many students/families for whatever reason don't have decent technology at home. I totally understand your frustration and the feeling that enough is enough when it comes to throwing money at the problem(s) and especially in these troubling and uncertain times. But, please, don't take this anger and frustration out on students.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

Many students/family do not have decent technology at home, but what they do have is every game system possible to keep their children entertained. I do agree some don't, but everyone makes choices. When Scarlett was supplying their students with lap tops, the students were all big into their social networking pages, and not using them for homework to help them academically. Having some kind of computer at home is necessary for school success these days, but many schools offer their technology up for these necessary projects. I am voting no because it is a struggle to get by financially these days, and as our federal government is finding out, we must accept the fact that we just can't keep going into more debt. This debt we will be passing on to our children, making their life difficult financially, but, what the heck, they would have had access to top notch technology when they were in school!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

Apple and Oranges, Eyeheart. 1) My post, and the AAPS document is about per pupil funding from the STATE. Your post is about funding from ALL sources. 2) My calculator places the value of 2001 dollars at $12, 853 3) Your post neatly misses the severe budget cuts this year. Mine and AAPS did not. 4) Finally, your post misses the point that, over the past decade, the federal government--those hated folks in D.C.--has more than quadrupled its per pupil contribution to the AAPS--per your links, from $216 to $878. Over the same period the state funding has decline from $5600 per year to $5000 per year--a decline in real terms (i.e., adjusted for inflation) of 21%. Local sources of revenue have somewhat made up for that shortfall. Bottom line: the state has not kept the promise it made with the passage of Prop A, and clearly the current governor and his rubber-stamp legislature have no intention of keeping that promise, either. Shocking, that. Hence millages for things that ought be part of the operating budget. Again, if you don't support this request, fine. But let's not pretend that the state hasn't created significant revenue problems for the AAPS and for other school districts Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 10:23 p.m.

Heardoc wrote: &quot;Ghost always attempts to obfuscate in order for his point to seem relevant -- problem is Ghost purposefully misses points and skews the data so that his point may seem valid. &quot; So you can, of course, present evidence of this? Of course you can. @snoopdog: Do you not understand how school funding works in this state? Apparently. Good Night and Good Luck


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 3:09 a.m.

&quot;Apple and Oranges, Eyeheart &quot;But let's not pretend that the state hasn't created significant revenue problems for the AAPS and for other school districts&quot; The state has created &quot;revenue problems&quot; for AAPS. Huh, Duh, what are you talking about ? All Jimmy Jones grape Kool-Aid, all fiction--no facts ! Good Day


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

Ghost always attempts to obfuscate in order for his point to seem relevant -- problem is Ghost purposefully misses points and skews the data so that his point may seem valid. Not with me Ghost, I have your number (so to speak) and your attempts have always been thwarted when I have come across the blatant mis representations that you make. Good Night and Good Luck (and a bit of common sense.......)

Blue Eyes

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

I'm voting NO! It's way past time for the schools and all other governmental units to live within their means like the rest of us have to do!


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 3:02 a.m.

I'm voting YES!


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

The Ghost Said: "Per the AAPS budget, per pupil funding this year is at 2000-2001 level. In real terms (i.e., adjusted for inflation), its budget has seen a 28% decrease in the last decade." Only trouble with that is, the AAPS numbers don't seem to agree with the numbers published by our state – during the Granholm admin. Per pupil funding: 2001-2002 $10,068 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> 2009-2010 $12,050 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> What cost $10068 in 2001 would cost $12419.54 in 2010. Per <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> So, shockingly, the situation doesn't seem to be as dire as the AAPS paints it to be. Anyone surprised? Regardless, the numbers are there, we can all spin them any way we want to now. Enjoy.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

Rach Oh, and to reply to your contention that my 'system' is all warped, why are there piles of studies focused on this very thing? Hmmmm? Must be a whole bunch of academics are all warped, according to your paradigm.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 8:37 p.m.

Rachel Having been on the school board of a private school, and on the PTA of a public elemetary school, I'd say I have a decent grasp of the financial needs of a school. Historically, States have had a much smaller contribution as a percent of total expenditures to schools. In the Forties, States contributed as little as 30% of the total, with local municipalities contributing the bulk of the rest (a small % was from the Feds). Totay, the % average contribution from States is around 50%, with local municipalities coming in a close second. This flies in the face of those who disparage our current cuts, when considering that the difference is as large as 30% going back to the Forties. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> That is why looking at the % spent from local taxes is so important. No room for spin doctors here.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

@ sbbuilder Do you have ANY idea how much money it takes to run a school? Your % system is all warped. Schools, police and fire departments will have a much higher tax % then other facilities like busing, recreation and parks.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Pravda I prefer to think of the issue in terms of % of my tax bill. Otherwise, you tend to get into the spin cycle you refer to. This is similar to the AATA bus fiasco. 'Busses are empty.' 'No, busses are full.' etc. What I focus on is that AATA gets an ~85% subsidy to keep running. That's all the info I need. In regards to education, I would love to have a % of our property tax ceiling established. I.e., the schools can only make up, say, 52% of my tax bill, and no more. Do with it what they will, but no more.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

The board of education is misreading the tea leaves. Yes, people voted for the special education millage. Bringing millages to the table should be a once a year event, after we have information about what the situation is. I am sure the board of ed wants more money, and the people were clear, they'll pay if they think it's worth it. This is not a good use of the political capital the board has discovered. Come back next year and we will think about whether to support another millage or not.


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

Rachel - The millage was renewed at the SAME RATE as the prior millage. Values of property in the county have fallen and more property is in foreclosure, so the total amount collected from the special education millage has fallen.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

@ J.A. The situation would be MUCH worse had the millage not passed. Remember the millage was not a full refund of all the money in the original millage.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

And after we were told the Special Education Millage would keep services currently being offered, once it was passed, we were told differently. As a current AAPS teacher, I see the special ed staff working their tails off to do... nothing but required paperwork, and it has overwhelmed to the point that they do not have the time to see the children they are supposed to be servicing. Add to this the fact that we have been told it will only be worse during the 2011-2012 school year. SO, we voted in a millage to have staff complete paperwork?


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

NO will be my vote. Cut the wasteful spending!


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 4:25 a.m.

macjont - School revenue for the last 3 years in Ann Arbor (less bond and sinking funds): FY2009 School year $182 million FY2010 School year $181 million FY2011 School year (projected) $183 million This is found on page 16 in the .pdf (but numbered page 3) of the FY2010/11 Approved Budget posted on the AAPS website. I don't see your cuts here?


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 3:02 a.m.

My vote will be Yes. Schools already have been asked to cut too much.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

But it's all for the chwildwen. We can't deny the little buggers any new do-dad that will propell them into the scholastic stratosphere! What's another .5 mills anyway? I'll tell you. It's another .5 mills on top of the approximately 54% of my property taxes that currently go towards education. Those of you who can't eschew any increase in monies going to our schools need to re-orient your thinking a bit. If our schools can't get by on funds generated by over half of our taxes, then I believe they will never have enough. Kind of like our current 'Debt Ceiling' drama being carried out. When you are out of money, simply borrow more! What an awesome concept. Won't work, folks. I'll passionately vote 'no' on this one, thank you.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

&quot;I'll passionately vote 'no' on this one, thank you.&quot; I know I'm shocked! Per the AAPS budget, per pupil funding this year is at 2000-2001 level. In real terms (i.e., adjusted for inflation), its budget has seen a 28% decrease in the last decade. So the AAPS is coming to its voters to fund those things that Prop A allows them to vote for. Don't support it? Fine. But let's not pretend that the state hasn't put the AAPS (and almost all other school districts in the state) in the position of having to ask voters to approve millages such as these. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

I agree with dasheek. My kids say they use computers at school only 2x week. They do, however, complete all their homework on our family desktop which is in high demand every night. What my kids really want is their own laptops and I foresee a time in the near future where kids will need a desktop to take to school, like my college age daughter.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Teachers &gt; Tech Bus to School &gt; Tech Kids have enough tech at home.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

Really??? I never thought I would see the day when grown adults are bashing poor children. Think about what you are saying! You should be ashamed.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

Geez I hope people in section 8 housing would spend money on a low end laptop or desktop before a comment on the phone.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

Really? Enough Tech at home? How about the kid living in section eight housing who barely gets enough to eat? And, just for the record, Wiis and Phones don't count.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

YES! This will be my vote. I am a tax payer, parent of 2 AAPS students, and a teacher in the district. I see daily the need for technology in my job as well as the students. More and more instruction and daily tasks are delivered electronically. Textbooks, student assessment, writing, report cards, research, achievement plans, IEPs, attendance, parent communication, math and reading interventions, etc... We must provide for our students.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

Why doesn't ann arbor be a leader in educational technology and be the first school in the county to use BYOD. Bring your own device is the future of educational technology. It was a real hot topic at the recent ISTE11 conference. Many teachers and admin around the country feel this is a great way to save millions of dollars. There are some schools who have been doing this already for 2-3 years.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

So, how did that &quot;give everyone at Scarlett a laptop&quot; turn out? I'm guessing not too well or we would have heard about how great it went.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

@ Ricebrnr The libraries are nice yes. But when you have a large paper due, they are not so good. Why? If there is any line at all waiting for a computer, you get logged out so the next person in line can use it.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

without commenting on the economic gaps, AA does have wonderful libraries with free computer use and internet...


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

&quot;A great concept for poor families who have to be creative to pay rent and eat. Wonderful way to increase the achievement gap between the haves and havenots.&quot; So provide scholarships, the way AAPS already does for athletics fees, field-trip fees, etc. AAPS could provide basic laptops or netbooks to every kid who qualified for the free/reduced lunch program for a tiny fraction of the cost of this millage proposal.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

A great concept for poor families who have to be creative to pay rent and eat. Wonderful way to increase the achievement gap between the haves and havenots.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Fifty dollars doesn't seem like too much, but then again, I will need that to pay for my kids' 5 varsity sports.


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

@AMOC - Check your math, please. $50/year over 10 years would be $500 not $5000. Other than that, I'm with you.


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

KMS - $50 doesn't seem like a lot for access to computers for the kids for a year, but it's $50 / year for however many years? Bonds millages are typically 10-20 years. Does $5000 over the next 10 years make sense as a payment for a computer and software that will be useful for 3-5 years?

Ron Granger

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

How many mills is the sports budget? Both the public part, and the secret part. Why are technology purchases broken out as a separate item, while sports are secret? The sports budget is literally, out of control... and secret.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

And let's not forget that a vast amount of the stuff purchased for &quot;gym class&quot; is actually for after school athletics.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2 p.m.

I agree, we need to see that athletic budget! In fact, I am disinclined to support any millage until I see some sort of breakdown on how sports is paid for.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

I can't believe some of the responses I am reading. If you were to buy a PC for your home, would you enter into a 20 year loan agreement to pay it off? Of course not. So why should the School District?


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

You reading this Chewie? See above. Rawwwwhhh. (Chewbaccan for &quot;read this&quot;) :D


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

According to Allen, the district will need $30.8 million over the next 10 years to offset the cost of replacing outdated technology. $30.8 million would buy 61,600 laptop computers at $500 each (which buys a perfectly fine laptop these days, BTW, that's what the one I'm typing on now cost). Sixty...One...THOUSAND! AAPS has an enrollment of 17,000, which works out to 1300 students in each of the 13 K-12 cohorts. In 10 years, 10x1300=13000 students will pass through the system. For that money, we could buy and give each AAPS student a new laptop computer in 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

@mw - &quot;AAPS technology and maintenance staff are not capital costs -- you can't pay their salaries out of technology bond monies.&quot; That may be, however, infrastructure (the actual network equipment to link approximately 35 buildings , and your &quot;61,800&quot; laptops/netbooks *sigh*), software, replacement parts (because the warranties do not cover &quot;abuse&quot;. But, that's okay. A2 kids never abuse anything. ;^) ), etc. actually do cost money. Quite a bit of it. It's kind of like a car in that way. There are a lot of parts on the car that many people never see or think about (until they break), but they are where the bulk of the price of the car is involved. And, they are expensive to repair.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

So, let me get this straight, mw. You think that the AAPS is overstating their needs? I haven't been this shocked since I noticed they understated their income. Shocked again. Twice in one day now. Soon I just won't know what to believe.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

&quot; But your napkin math leaves out the fact that you need technology professionals to set up and maintain the hardware and software you're purchasing, upgrade the network infrastructure, and all the other issues that would come along with actually making 61,800 laptops functional. &quot; AAPS technology and maintenance staff are not capital costs -- you can't pay their salaries out of technology bond monies.

Jake C

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Yep $30 million would buy a lot of laptops. But your napkin math leaves out the fact that you need technology professionals to set up and maintain the hardware and software you're purchasing, upgrade the network infrastructure, and all the other issues that would come along with actually making 61,800 laptops functional. As with most business investments, much of the money goes not towards the &quot;stuff&quot;, but in hiring the right people to make the &quot;stuff&quot; work.

Susie Q

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

AAPS and all schools have a responsibility to regularly replace student, teacher, clerical and administrative computers and software. Many of the state and federal reporting mandates (attendance, testing reports, special education paperwork), textbook/library materials circulation, etc, etc are all done only on computers now. The software companies put out upgrades that will not work on a 10 year old computer. Our students need access to up-to-date equipment. I disagree with some of the spending decisions made by AAPS, but will certainly support a .5 mil increase.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

Ann Arbor schools do need technology upgrades. Those of you who use computers every day: imagine you're using a 5-10 year old computer that crashes repeatedly and uses software that's several years out of date. This is exactly what the kids attending Ann Arbor schools are using in elementary, middle, and high school. A millage may not be the best way to pay for technology upgrades, but what other mechanism is in place for this? The current budgets are being cut drastically. There is no other money. Taking frustrations out on the kids who have to use this outdated stuff in their schools is misplaced. I'm no fan of new taxes but this one is justified.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, Jul 16, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

DonBee - I'll admit that it's not as easy as it might be, but if you look at, for example, the school board &quot;board packet&quot; for their May 11, 2011 meeting, you will find information on a number of bid proposals that are described as being funded by the 2010 sinking fund. Naturally, their focus is on the bidding process and project management, rather than the specific pot of money the funds will come from.


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 11:50 a.m.

Mr. Norton - My letter to AAPS on the projects the sinking fund was used for has gone unanswered again.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 5:02 a.m.

DonBee - the story makes clear that this is in preliminary stages. So I doubt that there is a specific plan for selling bonds or when they will mature. However, the record of how bonds were sold for the construction associated with the 2004 bond millage is quite clear and spelled out in several financial reports. I think it's odd to label that as &quot;not transparent&quot; when in fact they were trying to minimize interest costs and get favorable rates. I don't happen to have documents about what the sinking fund is paying for, or what &quot;technology&quot; is under discussion. My point was that state law specifically prohibits sinking funds for being used for technology, as defined in the law. Please compare MCL 380.1212 (sinking funds) with MCL 380.1352a (bonds), which also defines what kinds of &quot;technology&quot; bonds may or may not be used to purchase. If you would like a list of what projects are being funded by the sinking fund this year, or what technology purchases the district had planned for the next five years, why not ask? I imagine a Board of Ed member would be able to point you in the right direction. Seems much more productive than continuing to complain about it.


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 4:15 a.m.

Mr. Norton - If that is not the intent (e.g. selling bonds like they usually do, all at once), then the district is again being non-transparent. If the intention is to sell 3 or 5 year bonds, they should have said so, up front. If the intention is to sell them in small lots, that also should be disclosed up front. None of this information is public, to my knowledge, so if it is public, please point us to a source. As to the sinking fund, you and I have crossed swords on it a number of times. Please tell me - where is that money going - what building, what project? Also Please define &quot;technology&quot; - what are they really going to spend this money on and if it is computers - where are they going?


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 9:56 p.m.

Steve, why do you keep trying to confuse us with the facts??!!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

AMOC - I think we've had this exchange before. A millage can be used directly (like the sinking fund), or it can be used to pay down bonded indebtedness. It is against state law for AAPS to levy any additional millages except for sinking funds (which may not be used for technology or buses) or capital projects paid with bonds (which may be spent on technology). There is no alternate way to raise new funds for technology unless state law changes. Efforts to broaden sinking funds so that they can be used to pay for technology have failed in the legislature each year for the last six or seven years. No one said these were 20 year bonds. Secondly, they don't have to sell all the bonds at the same time. The millage described would give the district the authority to sell bonds and would guarantee a source of funds to repay them. The millage rate would vary according to the repayment needs at any given time. (The same happened with the 2004 construction bonds, which were sold in three waves between 2004 and 2006 as the projects went on. As the bonds are paid off - they mature at different times - the millage rate for that bond issue will go down.)


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

JMAC - A millage, where the money comes into the district every year and is spent on whatever the millage is int4ended to fund, instead of a bond issue, where the money comes in ONCE and then goes out for 20 years thereafter paying back the bond holders would be a better way to pay for technology updates. We taxpayers are still paying for the LAST round of technology updates bought in the first two years of the bond which paid primarily for the construction of Skyline High School, secondarily for at least one major renovation project at every single building to build community support and thirdly for our last technology update. Issuing bonds to pay for construction and major renovations make sense. Bonds to pay for tech updates does not. You pay at least as much in interest as you do for the actual purchase.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

If we don't, well, then most of the poor and working class kids in our county will lose out, while the parents of middle and upper class kids all go out and buy their kids iPads. If we don't give all of our students an opportunity, we're simply contributing to the knowledge gap and the stratification of our society. Think about it carefully A2 voters; lots at stake.


Sat, Jul 16, 2011 : 2:18 a.m.

You need to know how little time many of the students spend on computer. My Pioneer student gets less than an hour a MONTH, Tappan student maybe an hour a week. I'd be interested to hear from others.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

As I pointed out in a different comment, $30.8 million is enough to buy 61,600 laptops at $500 each. AAPS has 17,000 students. AAPS could by every existing student a laptop, plus all of the roughly 13,000 new students coming into the district over the next 10 years a laptop and STILL have over half the money remaining. Or we could buy them each a netbook at $250 each and have 3/4 of the money left over. If, on the other hand, we just bought a computer for students from poor families who couldn't afford one, we'd probably have 90-95 percent of the money left. The cost of computers is declining dramatically -- why isn't the same true of AAPS's technology bond requests?


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : noon

&quot;Christine Stead, a board of education trustee, worried that pulling the trigger too soon could lead to back-lash later from the community. I worry that it will be difficult to go back any time in the next year or so to go back to anything else," she said.&quot; You are correct Christine. Just keep paying admin and teachers top shelf gold plated benefits, pension and healthcare till they die, all funded by the taxpayers. You folks just don't get it, but you soon will. It is time to pull some real cost savings out of the the employees rather than keep screwing the taxpayers. Good Day


Fri, Jul 15, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

There are a lot of schools right now telling parents to have their children bring in their own computers. Or to have a laptop available for their use. I know Ann Arbor is using on line classrooms and children must have a computer to use. I know ours at the middle school needed a computer to access homework and to upload homework and blogs to the teachers site. But to request us to vote on a mileage for this is nuts. Vote no because your child can bring theirs in to school and use it on site. By the way, doesn't Ann Arbor have wi fi?


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

You really think paying $1 a week for new computers for our kids is getting screwed?

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Of course we're voting for this. If we don't, then we're screwing our kid's future.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

Yes, voting NO for it.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:50 a.m.

This proposal makes no sense. This is not the way to fund these types of expenses. It shows a complete lack of management skills. Until the AAPS can demonstrate they can manage the business side of the district, they should be denied new funding.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

I'm voting no. Let 'em lay off a few gold-plated administrators first.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

Agreed with this post. No new taxes and vote no on that darn mileage. Good grief, it is like Obama is sitting next to us. Raise taxes make em eat cake and so on and so on. Balais? Clean house before you clean ours.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

Why thank you Chewie.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

So insightful as always.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:42 a.m.

I think $50 a year seems very reasonable for the benefits the students will get from this upgrade. I plan to vote YES.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

@goosenews, I've actually donated much more than that, but I think the community investment in our schools is more worthwhile than individual donations.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

Why don't you just send the AAPS a check for $50. No vote needed.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

Me too.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

AAPS is completely out of line to try to fund technology, which has a useful life of up to 7 years according to Robert Allen, with bonds that are paid for over 20 years. The first rule of budgeting is, when you are in the hole, stop digging! While it may be true that schools are not allowed to purchase technology with sinking fund dollars, the sinking fund was supposed to free up general funds for other needed purchases. I say AAPS needs to use the sinking fund to cover the maintenance and minor building / furniture / equipment upgrades it was intended for and budget their generous ($1000 / student more than neighboring districts!) supply of general fund money to maintain or update the technology they bought with the bond money they received 5 years ago, and the technology they bought with stimulus money. I argued at the time that using long-term bond money for short-life items such as technology was a mistake. It's even more of a mistake now, when technology (rather than construction and major renovation PLUS technology) is the only reason for this particular bond proposal. I will vote &quot;no&quot; and urge everyone I know to do the same. A bond is the wrong thing approach to getting the teachers and students of Ann Arbor the technological support they need and deserve.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

Excellent post AMOC. This has nothing to do with politics and political agendas. Voting &quot;no&quot; is based on common sense and AAPS's lack of good fiscal leadership.

Joel A. Levitt

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:05 a.m.

I agree, the AAPS needs money, but, I need more information. How many computers are there now in each classroom? To what extent are they used for system clerical work? To what extent are they used for teaching students how to use computers? To what extent are they used for teaching the rest of the curriculum? Is it more important to replace current computers or to acquire more, and, in either case, do they have to be new?


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

@Disturbya - Your information is obsolete. The Scarlett one-to-one laptop program ended two years ago. Can't speak to to the accuracy of the info for Tappan students, but I suspect you can't really either. As for elementary students and &quot;playing&quot;, a lot of educational software for that age range looks like games; it is more engaging to young learners that way.


Sat, Jul 16, 2011 : 2:14 a.m.

Scarlett students each get a laptop - Tappan students spend less than an hour a day using computers. Elementary students have computers in classrooms, but from what I've seen they're used for playing.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

You obviously are not an AA administrator - too bad. They need more logical planning before they even think of asking for more money.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

Are people going to vote no because it is a new tax, or are people voting no because you are pissed at AAPS for things they have supposably done wrong (overpaying teachers, 3 AD's etc...) I have been to my kids elementary school, and the computers are old, slow and basically lived out their life span. I would support such a tax because it has to go towards technology. I am guessing those who post after me will think I am crazy and should be pushing for no new tax. But we live in a technological world, we need our kids to be technologically sound. The district has spent money on programs to help ALL kids find extra help and success and they are computer based, making the upgrades necessary. One more thing to think about, how often do we change mobile phones so we can get the upgrades? Did people run out and buy new flat screen plasmas and LCD tvs because you wanted the new visual experience. Point is, most bought these things because they WANTED them, AAPS is asking for this tax because they NEED these upgrades. If you are saying no to the tax because you don't think the district needs them, that's fine. If you are saying no because you don't think AAPS has done enough to cut, go visit your local classrooms and see for yourself. Just more to think about!!


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:18 a.m.

Local- Yes, the existing technology is outdated. Yes, updates are needed and will be again. BUT, do you pay for your new mobile phone, with a 2-3 year life expectancy, by taking out a 20 year mortgage on your house? Not if you're smart, you don't! AAPS has a sinking fund that works like a home equity loan, to pay for painting and fixing the furnace, which should free up the &quot;general&quot; funds needed to keep their technology up to date. Doubling to tripling the total cost of tech updates by paying interest on those purchases over 20 years is NOT in the best interests of the students or the district.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 10:45 a.m.

Dr. Green has been in her job for 13 days. One would hope that she'd want to take time to review things. With waste all through the district, jumping on the bandwagon to ask for money is a big misstep. I will vote no, and would get everyone I know to vote no.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

And I don't think people have forgotten the substantial pay increase offered to the new superintendent before even being hired. A major BOE mistep. People aren't of a mind to support any millage...I'm surprised they think there will be support.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:39 a.m.

Dr. Green will soon come to realize the power of the unions and the hold they have on our schools. Good luck to you Dr. Green. It is quite apparent the readers of this forum aren't in a mood to pay more taxes when they are receiving pay cuts, threats of downsizing, have advanced degrees also (usually more advanced), and they have to work all summer plus the plethora of holidays, and no develpoment/planning days.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 10:28 a.m.

No, no, no .... mis-spend and then come back for more money-- the public 'leaders' are very lacking in Ann Arbor. These people have never seen a tax that was bad -- they believe your money belong to them. Let us pay the teachers market rate and not prevailing wages. I use the term prevailing wages to point out the false wage structure that is currently in place (soon to be changed) with regards to teacher pay. The teachers should be willing to do this for the kids! Pay and benefits are out of line, spending is out of line and the so called 'achievement gap' is just another vehicle to get your money via the need for special programs. Let us remove African Studies -- as this seems to be very racist endeavor -- and review other feel good classes to see if we can save enough money to pay for the technology upgrades. Overspending here and in Washington,D.C. ; funny both are run by democrats.......

John A2

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

The Republicans Started IT!


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

Ann Arbor often wins accolades for its excellent school system (most recently in Money magazine). The teachers have something to do with that. If you want teacher pay to reach some lowest common denominator, you should expect to see the talent reach the same level.


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 11:01 a.m.

Mich Res - It may be true that educators in some areas of the US are underpaid, but that is NOT true in Michigan and is especially not true in Ann Arbor. When you compare hours/week and weeks/year worked to other &quot;professionals&quot; who have college educations, teachers are actually paid very well in our region. And when teachers keep claiming they could make more in the &quot;private sector&quot;, they sure aren't talking about private schools which pay significantly less than the public ones. Nor can they usually get hired in a different sort of business in this economy.

Mich Res and Alum

Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 10:41 a.m.

&quot;The teachers should be willing to do this for the kids! &quot; What is the world does that mean?! Educators are ridiculously underpaid - you expect them to work for free? It takes a lot of college education and training to be an educator; continuous education actually. Why, again, should their already low salaries be lowered more?


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 10:07 a.m.

Used up? The last $3 million was used not for technology but for a new Weight Room for Varsity sports. How much technology would that have bought? Using 20 year money for 3 year equipment. We are still paying off the last 3 or 4 rounds of technology upgrade. Because of the interest involved a $500 computer will cost the tax payers $1,000. This is a really good use of tax money. I promise to vote, you can guess how I will vote!


Sat, Jul 16, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

You mean the varsity sports they just cut?


Thu, Jul 14, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

I bet that weight room will at least service kids a LOT longer than a computer that they're throwing out in 3 years.