A coalition seeking approval of a funding bond for the Dearborn Public Schools said property owners will not see an increase in the 4.82 millage rate because of the proposal.
Place Catering, 23400 Park, Dearborn, by a coalition of community and business leaders explained the BRICS bond – which would target Buildings, Renovations, Infrastructure, Capacity and Safety.
“Citizens for Dearborn Schools” committee member John Zadikian serves as emcee for the Sept. 9 kickoff breakfast at Park Place to discuss the impetus behind the promotion of the $240 million school district bond proposal.
Speakers included Citizens for Dearborn Schools Co-Chairs Maria Dwyer and Hussein Mohamed Hachem, Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly, Jr., state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D–Dearborn), Dearborn school board member Mary Petchlikoff and Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Glenn Maleyko.
The Nov. 5 millage proposal would generate $240 million in funding. The two-part bond would provide $86 million in the first three years, and the second series would provide $154 million in the fourth through sixth years. If the millage is approved, construction could begin in the spring of 2020.
Proponents say if the millage passes, residents will not pay more in taxes because the millage rate will stay the same, while enabling the district to address needed infrastructure updates and repairs, security and safety improvements, and repairs and replacement of lighting, boilers, restrooms, roofs, windows and technology infrastructure.
The school district has 34 buildings covering 3.2 million square feet and serves 20,700 students. The average building age is 65 years, with 12 buildings older than 90 years. Duvall Elementary and Salina Intermediate schools were built in 1921, and soon will reach the century mark.
Dwyer, a Fordson grad with children in the district, said the bond is critical to the district, as is its Nov. 5 passage.
“For me, the most important piece of this bond is security in our schools,” she said. “In our schools, they are being trained in how to respond in the event of mass shootings, but that is only one piece of it. Chief (Ronald) Haddad and his Police Department are working tirelessly with Dr. Maleyko and his team to ensure that our students and our community is kept safe.”
Dwyer said the students, teachers and staff are all trained, but it is also necessary to ensure that the buildings are secure. She said the bond will provide secure upgrades to every school in the district. Many neighboring districts also have a millage on the ballot for security upgrades.
“Each of the schools within our district would have cameras installed, and ensure that double doors are placed in our buildings,” Dwyer said. “Those cameras will be linked to Chief Haddad’s team, and they will be able to respond, essentially, in real time in the event this ever occurs in one of our schools.”
Dwyer said that as a parent, that is the most important piece of the bond for her.
“This issue hits very close to home and I think that is the reason we should all vote ‘yes’ on Nov. 5,” Dwyer said.
O’Reilly concurred that it is critical to get the message out, and that residents have accurate answers to their questions about the millage.
He said the millage is critical to the community when people look at a school system and decide where they are going to live.
“It is not just about the schools, it is who we are as a community, and what is being presented here is the same thing,” O’Reilly said. “Digging in and saying what are the things we need to do to make sure we are attractive, our students are coming here because the parents understand that they have a high-quality value, that they are going to be able to see their children prosper.”
O’Reilly said the City Council decided not to put any other tax proposal on the ballot so the school millage is the only decision in front of voters in November.
“The message has to be that even if you don’t have children in school, the quality of our community is at stake,” O’Reilly said. “We have had a lot of former rental properties that have now become again owner-occupied properties, and they are young families, who want to come into Dearborn, who want to raise their children here. That is what keeps communities strong. It is about who we are as a community and how we are going to be successful in the future.”
Hammoud said when he asked about the approach the speakers were taking, whether a carrot or a stick, the answer was neither, but BRICS.
He said renewing the millage will prove to be fruitful “for decades to come.”
“If we wait any longer, the need that we will have will increase dramatically, and frankly, we can’t wait,” he said. “There is no other mechanism that we have currently to invest in the infrastructure of our schools. We also have to be active in educating the community in how the funding works.”
Hammoud said funding from the state cannot be spent on school infrastructure. He said Dearborn is the third largest school district in Michigan, with about 22,000 students in 34 buildings.
“We need to be out there, educating community members on the investment that they are making, and maintaining their own property values by investing in the schools that neighbor their homes,” he said. “We have heard of the horror stories that happen in other districts when you stop investing in the schools. It is hard to come back once you take a strong ‘no’ vote, so we are advocating for a strong ‘yes’ vote.”
Petchlikoff said it was the school board that decided to put the millage to the residents.
“We have an investment to protect, and the schools play a major role in that,” she said.
She said the supplemental millage passed in 2016 was to help supplement the income that was lost due to the decline in property values during the recession. She said the money from the 2016 supplemental millage has been put toward a variety of educational needs, and many building repairs have been delayed.
Petchlikoff said the operating budget for the schools, from the general fund, goes to day-to-day operations, with 85 percent going to staffing costs.
She said there are buildings that need basics, like boilers, windows and roofs.
“If you are a senior citizen, you are giving back what was given to you,” Petchlikoff said.
Maleyko said that the district has award-winning schools, with a 95 percent graduation rate, and 86 percent college enrollment.
“We cannot let the district deteriorate,” he said. “For some of us, it is the value, but really, it comes back to the 21,000 students, and I want to thank you for supporting our students.”
“Citizens for Dearborn Schools” Co-Chair Hussein Mohamed Hachem speaks at the Sept. 9 kickoff breakfast at Park Place, emphasizing the importance of the promotion of the $240 million school district bond proposal.
For more information about the bond, and future meeting dates, go to iblog.dearbornschools.org/bond, or go to “Citizens for Dearborn Schools” on Facebook.