Birmingham Public Schools are asking residents to approve a $66 million bond proposition on Tuesday, May 5, designed to provide funds to the district for building and site upgrades, technology improvements, instructional upgrades, and safety and security improvements, asserting that by putting the bond on the May ballot, they will be able to provide for needed building repairs, offer regular technology updates and other advancements without increasing the tax rates currently paid for an existing bond issue.
That is accurate, although it must be pointed out that without a new bond proposal, taxes would actually decline for residents effective July 1 of this year by .83 mills under an earlier bond proposal the district is paying off. Currently, the district levies 3.9 mills on a 20-year bond from 2003, which they intend to retire early and replace with this one due to low interest rates. However, district leaders counter that if this ballot proposal fails, they will reintroduce a similar proposition in the future, and it will then actually be a tax increase.
The $66 million bond proposal is primarily a building and technology improvement bond, with a small percentage of money earmarked for safety and other items, some of which we recognize as vital, such as making sure each building will have new secured entry vestibules created with A/V controlled access. District officials have provided a detailed spending plan for each of the school facilities which is available on the district website (birmingham.k12.mi.us) for voter review.
In general, we think that the building needs listed by the district are legitimate. Long gone are the days when school districts could afford to make building maintenance and improvements out of the general fund monies, given the costs of education and the heavy load of legacy retirement costs. So it is hard to argue against addressing roof leaks, parking lot improvements and the like. Like others, however, we may be less than thrilled with a few items like heavy expenses for high school dugouts and scoreboards, but we think overall school officials have whittled down a $100 million wish list to mostly essentials for this bond issue.
The Birmingham district has historically been one of the top performing districts in the state and facilities and technology are certainly part of the equation in continuing to provide a quality education. So we urge district voters to say YES on the May 5 bond proposal.