Editorial: Vote YES for Clarkston schools bond

Whether or not you have kids attending school, one thing that touches everybody in the Clarkston community is the Clarkston Community Schools district.
On Tuesday, August 2, they are asking area voters to pass a $75 million bond extension. The Clarkston News urges voters to support this proposal.
Current funding levels for all of the state’s 540-plus districts originated from Proposal A in 1994 – in an effort to keep folks from being taxed out of their homes. Pre Proposal A was funded mostly through property taxes, meaning districts with more industrial property received more funding.
Proposal A switched to a sales tax base aiming to equalize funding across the state. The state did not reduce the funding levels for districts which received more at that time.
They’ve attempted to bring up the bottom over the years, but there is still a significant gap. The state “pays” districts based on headcount and performance. Despite receiving less per student than districts like Waterford ($7,540 per student), Lake Orion ($8,123), Royal Oak ($8,818), and Birmingham ($11,984), Clarkston administration, board of education, teachers, and staff have all done a remarkable job with their per-pupil allotment – this year slated to go up $120 per student to $7,511.
A testament to their commitment to not only education, but the finances of providing a quality education, is their standings in the 2016 Michigan Education Finance Study. Clarkston was one of only 58 districts in the state meeting above average performance standards with a Notably Successful ranking. The district has tightened their proverbial belts and proven themselves fiscally responsible.
Is this bond proposal perfect? No. Clarkston News readers, in their previous letters to us, have pointed out some of the flaws, but this does not diminish the needs the district has in the here and now.
After Prop A was passed, it became the responsibility of each community to keep their buildings in good working condition. It is time again to invest in the school district.
We believe the $75 million bond is a good way to get our schools the money needed to keep the buildings in working order and keep our students up-to-date with the technology they will need to compete as they grow into adulthood.
In our series on the bond, school-by-school, we have documented the structural needs . . . these problems will not go away and the longer repairs and upgrades are put off, the harder and more expensive they will be to fix.
We all understands property – buildings, infrastructure, even sidewalks and parking lots, have a shelf-life. The schools’ technology networks need upgrading, as does building security, heating systems, windows, doors, and lighting.
Their computers are Windows XP – which are no longer supported by the manufacturer. We cannot turn back the hands of time and go to a system of black boards, chalk and Number 2 pencils. Technology is here and we must – at the least – remain current.
By voting YES on August 2, bonds will be sold this November and the district should get funds soon after. Tech upgrades can begin immediately after the sale and start to be phased in during the 2016-2017 school year. Putting off this bond issue for another one down the road puts off repairs and upgrades for at least another year. This is too long of a wait.
Again, we urge voters to support the $75 million schools bond. Vote YES on August 2.
– Don Rush

4 Responses to "Editorial: Vote YES for Clarkston schools bond"

  1. Michael Powell   July 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Don, the problem with the whole Clarkston school bond scenario lies in fact that state law specifically prohibits the spending of school bond monies on building maintenance, or building repairs.

    When it’s said that “money is needed to keep the buildings in working order and that school-by-school, we have documented the structural needs” . . . that “buildings, infrastructure, even sidewalks and parking lots, have a shelf-life.” And “the schools heating systems, windows, doors, and lighting need upgrading”, any homeowner knows when the “shelf life” of these items expires they are considered repairs and maintenance, not “upgrades”. Repair items that most homeowners budget for by setting aside a portion of their budget when those items are still functional. Besides government, who borrows money to replace items that are still functional? Unless of course they are items that are broken and require maintenance or a repair.

    This story confirms that the school bond money will be used for “repairs” and maintenance in violation of state school bond law: “Putting off this bond issue for another one down the road puts off REPAIRS and upgrades for at least another year. This is too long of a wait.”

    Using bond monies for repairs and maintenance has been pointed out as being illegal numerous times by opponents of this tax increase as being an illegal. Why support an illegal use of our money?

    Reply
  2. Greg Need   July 28, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Mr. Powell is absolutely wrong. CCS filed for and received preliminary qualification approval from the Michigan Department of Treasury for this bond issue. The 52 page preliminary application filed can be found on the CCS website. An explanation of the bond process can be found here on the Treasury website: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/3160_2815_7.pdf
    Among other things Treasury officials reviewed the extensive detailed application submitted by CCS. Their approval of the application confirms that all the proposed expenditures will be proper and lawful.
    I guess some bond opponents cannot come up with any substantive arguments so they resort to a deliberate campaign of misinformation. Sad.

    Reply
  3. Michael Powell   August 1, 2016 at 7:41 am

    The use of the word “repair” to describe the bonds usage in this article was not my words, they were Mr. Rush’s. If you re-read the article you’ll see that the use of “repairs” is used to describe bond “needs”.

    Obviously Mr. Need knows that “repair” and maintenance items are an illegal use of bond monies, he provides a link as proof. Mr. Rush obviously recognizes that many of the bonds expenditures are in fact “repairs, not “upgrades”. Why else would he use that word?

    What IS “absolutely wrong” are people who change the name of obvious repair items to “upgrades”, “replacements”, etc. to get around the law.

    I guess some bond proponents don’t want to admit that they plan to violate the law so they resort to a deliberate campaign of lies and misinformation. Sad.

    From the link provided by Mr. Need:

    Unallowable uses of bond proceeds:
    • Repairs, maintenance, or maintenance agreements
    • Supplies, salaries, service contracts, lease payments, installment purchase contracts
    • Automobiles, trucks, or vans
    • Portable classrooms purchased for temporary use
    • Uniforms
    • Textbooks
    • Upgrades to an existing computer operating system or application software
    • Computer training, computer consulting, or computer maintenance contracts

    Reply
  4. Pam Flaherty   August 1, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Mr. Powell’s comments are spot on, good for him. Anyway, my family and friends are voting NO, current debt plus the new price of $75,000,000 will bring up a debt of over $200,000,000. THAT IS MILLIONS of debt going far into the future that even our kids will be paying for it if they buy a home here. Certain people are going to get political and financial favors out of this that we will never know about. I don’t see the situation getting better when we only have two school board members, Susan Boatman and Craig Hamilton who are not in favor of this massive debt. The other five are pushing this and will rubber stamp whatever Dr. Rock puts in front of them. Will someone step up to the plate and run against this current board before we have State Auditors run our schools and cause teacher layoffs?

    Reply

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