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Ann Arbor voters will answer $1 billion question to fund Ann Arbor Public Schools


Ann Arbor voters on Tuesday will decide on a $1 billion capital bond funding Ann Arbor Public Schools that would increase taxes by 1.65 mills.

The ballot states that sum would be split to replace and upgrade school infrastructure, build new classrooms, improve technology, and other needs deemed necessary by the Ann Arbor Board of Education.

Those recommendations follow a 2017 infrastructure assessment from EMG, a Maryland-based real estate inspection company that found the facilities “to be in overall good to fair condition and have had an adequate level of maintenance over the past few years,” but suggested the 10-figure investment to keep that rating from crumbling to “poor.”

“However, without substantial upfront investment, many of the schools Facility Condition Index (Immediate and short term needs/replacement value of the facility) will fall into the ‘poor’ rating within a few years,” the summary stated.

The assessment focused on buildings’ structural frames, plumbing and electrical systems, and safety and fire protection.

The report recommended repairing and replacing equipment over the 20-year-term, as well as installing other features such as full sprinkler systems and central air conditioning.

The report divided that $1 billion into three categories: 60.1 percent of the $1 billion relates to replacing worn-out assets, 32.2 percent for modernization projects, and 7.9 percent to fund “life‐safety items.”

Superintendent Jeanice Swift said the bond program will “transform” the education of future students, adding that the proposal would restore 35 of the 45 buildings assessed. Of the 33 buildings, 32 are schools that are an average of 63 years old.

“This bond program has been developed and driven by a shared vision of many stakeholders within our Ann Arbor community, to transform the student learning experience with environmentally friendly, sustainable school facilities in every neighborhood designed to support the educational goals as well as the health, safety and well-being of students,” Swift said in a statement.

Swift told Mlive that the 2.5-mill district sinking fund passed in 2017 with 70 percent of voter support wouldn’t foot the cost of the needed repairs.

“The purpose of the bond is to purchase technology, buses, furniture, musical instruments – all of those kinds of purchases that can not be purchased with the sinking fund,” Swift said.

Swift said the 2019 bond targets four goals:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Health, Safety, and Well Being
  • Sustainability and Environmentally Responsible Infrastructure
  • Efficient and Effective Support Systems and Services

The city’s previous bond will be consolidated into the new bond, which would increase the total outstanding millage debt to be at about 4.1 mills.

The bonds would be issued in series, not to exceed 22 years from the issue date.