DPS kicks off SMART Bond campaign

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The campaign for the Dearborn Public Schools’ $76 million SMART bond officially got under way Sept. 11 at Park Place Catering, 23400 Park.

DPS and Dearborn Education Foundation administrators presented information on how money from the millage proposal on the Nov. 5 general election ballot will be spent. The money is planned to be used for security, modifications, additions, renovations, technology and transportation improvements for the district.

All schools would receive upgrades to their security, modifications, technology and transportation, but a handful of buildings would be given additions and undergo renovations.

The bond would be for 20 years and would renew a retiring bond. The current 5.35-mill rate for school taxes would stay in place, something DPS Supt. Brian Whiston said the community should consider when voting in November.

He added that improvements are needed at buildings because the student body has grown by more than 2,000 in the last 13 years.

“We are a growing school district,” Whiston said. “That is great, but it is also difficult for the school district. We need to add space to meet the needs of the students in the different buildings.”

DPS Central Office Director Hassane Jaafar outlined how money would be spent in the individual schools and stated how the gradual reduction in state funding has affected the district.

“We have lost almost $5 million in state funding since 2008-09,” Jaafar said. “That compels us to shift funding from one thing to another to maintain the services we provide. If we pass this millage, we will be able to leave money in the classroom and stop taking it out of the general fund for brick and mortar projects.”

He said state funding per pupil dropped from $9,092 in 2008 to $8,332 in 2012.

Jaafar added that the district last asked for a bond in 2002, which was for $150 million and addressed technology needs and overcrowded schools in the district.

DPS Board of Education President Pam Adams said the board thought “long and hard” before asking for the bond, but in the end the trustees believed that the items were “needs, not wants.”

She added that although she no longer has children who are students, she still supports the bond as a taxpayer.

“I am proud to support the schools with my taxes,” Adams said. “Other people supported me when I was in school and helped support my kids. That’s just what you do as a community.”

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said the community has to do whatever it can to support its schools because the students will be the future leaders here and elsewhere.

“Our community is strong only because we’re constantly having a vision for the future,” he said. “By investing in the schools and giving them the things that they need, we can help the students believe in themselves and believe in their education.”

The next scheduled meeting for SMART bond discussion is at a League of Women Voters forum slated for 6:15 p.m. Sept. 23 in the City Council chambers in City Hall, 13615 Michigan Ave.

That meeting will also have information available about the millage renewal and increase proposed by Henry Ford Community College. The HFCC millage also is on the Nov. 5 ballot.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)