GP Schools tech bond fails by almost 5,000 votes

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 5, 2014

GROSSE POINTES — It looks like it’s back to the drawing board for the school district if it wants to make major infrastructure and security upgrades, along with putting more technology into the hands of the students.

The $50 million technology bond that the district had worked on for about a year went down to defeat with 8,486 people voting against the proposal to 3,593 voting in favor of the technology bond during the Feb. 25 election.

The measure failed in all five Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods.

“While I am disappointed in the result of the election, the election has engaged the community in this important discussion and provided guidance to move forward,” Board Treasurer Brian Summerfield stated on Facebook.

While Summerfield said he is not speaking as the official spokesman for the board because that is the board president’s role, he did have some things to say about plans for the future.

“I truly hope to engage our residents to find a solution here,” Summerfield said. “The district is already behind in upgrading its technology for 21st century learning, so I am very concerned. We are in the process of putting the 2014-2015 budget together now. I am meeting with the administration early next week to determine what, if anything, can be done this year. The district will have to prioritize its needs and make some difficult choices.”

With state-mandated changes coming down the pipeline, like a change to online assessments, the district needs to do something in terms of technology or it won’t be able to meet that requirement.

Superintendent Thomas Harwood expressed in a statement that he, too, is disappointed in the outcome of the election.

“Local tax/bond issues are some of the last financing options that voters can directly control,” he stated. “We respect the election process and while disappointed that this was not approved, the results are clear that a different option is needed. It is important we recognize the ballot results don’t solve the technology problems identified.”

He said the district was planning to seek more feedback for its next steps in a customer satisfaction survey that they were planning to have online and available in schools.

“I have every confidence we will find a solution our constituents can support,” he said. “The administration will review the options for financing technology improvements as we develop the 2014-15 budget and review the financial needs for the 2015-16 budget and beyond.”

The district will focus on the renewal of the hold harmless, non-homestead and sinking fund millages during the 2014-15 school year.

“These renewals represent approximately 24 percent of our operating budget and are critical to the financing of our school operations,” Harwood said. “We are asking our community to support those renewals next November and to provide suggestions for budget development now.”

While others also expressed disappointment, including people on the GP Tech Yes Facebook page, there were residents who had been opposed to this bond proposal speaking out on the Residents for Responsible Spending Facebook page.

They, too, want to get down to the work of a new plan for technology in the district.