Tentative bond proposal promises upgrades without tax increase

On Jan 27, Fenton’s Board of Education approved the Application for Preliminary Qualification for the new bond proposal they hope to put before the community in the spring. This new bond, if approved, will contain many projects but will not increase the taxes of the Fenton community.

“There is five or six areas that this bond proposal application is addressing,” Superintendent Timothy Jalkanen said at the meeting. “All of the work that will be proposed in this bond application can be completed without a tax increase.”

The bond will raise $11 million and be given to the public in three phases. The first being given in 2014, then 2018, and finally 2022.

“One of the things or concerns that I have heard is ‘Oh, yeah, you are going to buy technology and three years, four years down the road it is going to be obsolete. You are going to be back on our shoulders asking for more money’” President of the Board Lynn Hopper said. “That’s one of the prime reasons we are going through three roll out types, so we can constantly upgrade and do our best to eliminate any bond issues…and improve our technology.”

After approving the Preliminary Qualification, the Board’s next step is to send it to the Michigan Department of Treasury for its approval. The Treasury then has 30 days to review and approve the application before the Board is able to set the date and approve the ballot language.

“[The ballot language] is developed through our bond attorney and it has strict guidelines that have to be followed on the bond application,” Jalkanen said. “Once our bond attorney reviews and develops the bond language, we will send it to the Genesee County clerk’s office for their review and then they will actually have the bond application.”

This is the Board’s third proposal in the past two years. Some people are beginning to wonder if a bond is the correct answer to the big money question.

“We want to say we live in a 21st century school district, but I am unaware of any 21st century organizations that do not have a line item for technology in their budget,” Board Trustee Drew Shapiro said. “Until I see a long term plan for technology that does not involve bonding, I will not vote to support any bond issue.”

Others continue to believe that approving a bond is the school’s only option to acquire the money needed to upgrade the projects the school desires to complete.

“It’s not a question of irresponsible money management by the district,” Board Treasurer Rick DesJardins said. “This is a matter of irresponsible funding by our state government. Until that changes, this is what we have to do.”

The need for money comes back to what school is really about.

“It’s for the kids, a lot of people say, ‘Well I don’t have kids that got to school.’ When you were in school, people voted to help you and your education to advance,” Hopper said. “This is the same situation. These people should remember that these kids today are tomorrow’s leaders. It can affect their future and what they’re doing as it continues to advance into their senior years. It will help everybody in the long run.”