Voters pass $30.7 million Avondale Schools bond

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 15, 2017

AUBURN HILLS/ROCHESTER HILLS/TROY/BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Voters in the Avondale School District hit the polls Nov. 7 to decide a $30.7 million bond issue, with the measure passing with over 64 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Oakland County Elections Division.

District officials are referring to the bond — which passed with 2,339 yes votes to 1,287 no votes — as a “smart bond,” which will be used to address safety and security issues and to update the district’s infrastructure and technology, among other things.

“We are very excited that this has passed and passed quite nicely, in terms of its margin,” said Avondale Superintendent James Schwartz. “What that tells us is that the community certainly supports taking care of our school buildings, because they understand that good schools means good property values, so I think that helps to ring true in this circumstance. It also echoes the fact that folks, by and large, support the directionality of the district.”

The estimated millage to be levied in 2018 to service the bond is 0.460 mills, and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bonds is 1.130 mill, according to the ballot language.

“It just extends the school debt for about four to five years, but there is no increase in rate for taxpayers,” Schwartz explained.

District officials said each of the district’s seven schools will be touched, in some way, by the bond.

“Every building will be touched by this bond, some more than others — everything from playground equipment to vestibules to all the technology infrastructure. There is something for everybody in this bond,” Schwartz said.

The bond will be used in three primary ways — upgrading technology and infrastructure, improving student safety and school security, and repurposing media centers to incorporate 20th-century learning practices. The district also plans to purchase four new buses, which it is currently leasing.

“The bond, by and large, is what we are calling a smart bond, because it really has to do with taking care of our current facilities — in terms of upgrades and infrastructure, really taking care of what we have.”

One of the biggest purchases within the bond proposal is for technology. Schwartz said the district has earmarked over $6 million to upgrade and replace existing technologies throughout the district — including student and staff computers, printers and projectors, and the infrastructure that feeds all of them.

“All of our computers were purchased back in the 2010 bond, so they are now going on 7 to 8 years old and reaching the end of their life. We are replacing them one by one as they are dying, and we also need new upgrades to keep up with the pace of software,” Schwartz said.

High-efficiency infrastructure upgrades — including boiler replacements, roofing improvements, electrical upgrades, and installing LED lighting in classrooms, parking lots and hallways — are also earmarked.

“We are looking at those high-efficiency upgrades paying off within three to four years because of the savings we would get on our utilities moving to higher efficiency,” Schwartz said. “Right now, when boilers and computers and things break, it comes out of our general fund monies, which means it comes out of classrooms. So by passing the bond, it really protects the general fund, keeping monies to go toward instruction, keeping monies to go toward class size reduction, keeping monies for those classroom expenditures, where it should go, as opposed to having to spend those monies on infrastructure needs.”

Schwartz said the district also plans to add additional security cameras at its buildings and to redesign the vestibule areas within its schools to provide safer and more secure entryways.  

“Ideally, you should have the public enter a building and immediately enter the office. They have to have permission from there to go anywhere else in the building. That becomes problematic in the design of some of our current buildings, where that is not the case, so some front entranceways need to be redesigned,” he said. “Unfortunately, in this world, this is what we have to do now.”

The district will use a portion of the bond money to redesign the middle school and high school media centers to incorporate a more collaborative project environment.

“Students aren’t using the media center to check out books, to check out resources like we used to, because now everything is on their phone or computer. The need for a physical library is not what it used to be,” Schwartz said. “We are still going to have a library and books for students to check out. We are still going to have resources. That is not going away. What we are doing is reconfiguring and making better use of that space. Right now, our millennials are walking into a work world that is very fast-paced, very multitasked, very collaborative, and we have to prepare an environment for them so they are ready to enter that.”

Avondale Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services Frank Lams thanked the Avondale community for its support on the bond issue.  

“Now the real work begins, as we live up to the commitments made during the bond campaign,” he said in an email.