SMART bond to be on Nov. 5 ballot

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Dearborn Public Schools is pushing for the November election to get its bond passed.

The Board of Education voted April 8 to put their Security, Maintenance, Additions, Renovation, Technology and Transportation bond on the Nov. 5 general election ballot rather than the Aug. 6 primary election ballot after a unanimous vote.

“I am very happy with the decision to put the bond on the later ballot,” DPS Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “The main thing is to have the board and the community united, and this is a great opportunity for the community to support their schools.”

DPS Communications Coordinator David Mustonen said the board felt that the later ballot would give the district more time to share the information in the bond with the public and gather more feedback from the community.

The SMART bond is a $76 million renewal proposal that would go toward district-wide security updates with costs at $600,000 for security improvement projects, $800,000 for maintenance, $3.6 million for 30 new buses, $12 million for technology and the rest for additional projects.

It is a 20-year bond that would not increase the current 5.81 mill rate taxpayers are currently paying due to the retirement of existing bond debt.

Mustonen, who introduced the bond to the board during a March 11 meeting, said the bond is needed largely because of the growing student body. The district has about 19,100 students with more than 6,200 being added during the last 25 consecutive years of enrollment gains.

“Our student body has grown enormously,” Mustonen said. “We don’t have the general dollars in our fund to address these very important concerns.”

Mustonen said that the growing amount of students has created a need to provide additional security, while an aging inventory of buildings and school buses, state required on-line testing, and an 8.1 percent decline in funding from the state over the last five years have all strained the DPS budget.

Security issues addressed in the bond include updates at all 35 DPS buildings, which would get some form of updated security ranging from auto-lock doors to buzzer entrance systems and video monitors.

“After the Sandy Hook (Newtown, Conn.) tragedy we had a lot of parents come to us about school security,” Mustonen said. “They felt their children were safe in our schools but they asked us to look into any ways we could improve security.”

Building renovations are also part of the bond. If passed, every DPS building would receive new lockers, carpets and windows. Mustonen said that this was an important part of the bond because statewide budget cuts have left the district with less money to cover maintenance costs.

Whiston said that the exact details of which buildings would receive repairs or renovations has not been finalized.

“We are going out to the buildings to see what work is needed,” Whiston said. “Every building is being visited and the staff and community are being asked for their input in the process.”

Mustonen said that all of the six issues addressed in the SMART bond are important to DPS.

“This is not a wish list, these are things that the school district is really needs,” Mustonen said. “Improvements to these areas will allow us to maintain a good positive learning environment for our students.”