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Voters approve Ferndale Public Schools’ $124.8 million bond

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 10, 2020

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FERNDALE — A $124.8 million bond has been passed by residents in the Ferndale Public Schools district, which will be used to fund major projects and renovations over the next decade.

With all 12 precincts reporting, school district voters overwhelmingly passed two ballot items, according to Oakland County’s election website. The bond proposal received 8,260 “yes” votes from the 10,241 people who voted, equaling 80.66%. There were 1,981 people who voted against the bond.

“We’re incredibly proud to have an 80% passage rate, which shows that we did well in communicating out the vision of the bond, and that captured the community’s vision as well,” said Superintendent Dania Bazzi. “The Board of Education and myself and staff and students were eternally grateful to the community, and now the real work starts.”

The bond money is scheduled to be used for Ferndale Middle and High schools, University High School, the Tri-County Educational Center, the Ferndale Early Childhood Center, Ferndale Upper Elementary School, Ferndale Lower Elementary School and the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts.

A notable change that the bond money will be used for is the construction of a new K-2 building for Ferndale Lower Elementary School. The building will be constructed at the current site of CASA, while that institution will move into the building that Ferndale Lower Elementary School currently is using, which will receive updates.

“We couldn’t be happier for our students, as well as the Ferndale Public Schools community,” Bazzi said. “This bond will help us establish a 10-year plan and allow us to educate our students in the very best learning environments. I think voters showed up to the polls and they represented our students with that vote.”

The other ballot proposal was a non-principal residence operating millage proposal, which will increase the “limitation on the amount of taxes which may be levied by Ferndale Public Schools for general operating purposes on non-principal residence taxable property (comprised primarily of business, commercial, and rental property, but excluding owner-occupied homes) by 2.00 mills,” according to the ballot language.

The operating millage received 7,895 votes from the 10,117 people who voted. This equates to a little over 78% of the vote.

The ballot language stated that if the measure was approved and combined with the school district’s other unexpired authorization, it would provide additional authority of the school district to continue to levy the statutory limit of 18 mills on non-principal residence taxable property, which includes business, commercial, and rental properties, but excludes owner-occupied homes.

The millage that passed March 10 is a buffer for Headlee Amendment rollbacks — when property taxes rise by more than the inflation rate, the millage rate is decreased so that the district’s total taxable property brings in the same gross revenue, adjusted for inflation — so that if the district incurs further rollbacks, it will still have authorization to collect the full 18 mills. The district anticipated that at current rates, without the millage passed March 10, Headlee rollbacks would drop the millage rate below 18 mills in 2021.

“Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be imposed on taxable non-principal residence property in the Ferndale Public Schools, County of Oakland, State of Michigan, be increased by 2 mills ($2.00 on each $1,000 of taxable value) for sixteen (16) years, the years 2020 to 2035, inclusive, to provide funds for operating expenses? This millage would raise an estimated $95,650 for the school district in the first year that it is levied,” the language stated.

“The non-homestead renewal allows the district to ensure that we’ll maintain the same funding that we currently have,” Bazzi said. 

City Clerk Marne McGrath said she expected a high turnout at the polls, especially with the bond proposal on the ballot, and with Ferndale being a heavily Democratic Party community, she felt there would be a big turnout for the presidential primary as well.

The city of Ferndale’s nine precincts had a voter turnout average of 51.47%, which the city clerk noted was higher than the 47% turnout in 2016 for the presidential primary. Including the other five precincts from Royal Oak Township, Pleasant Ridge and Oak Park that are a part of Ferndale Public Schools, the turnout was 48.715%.

“Everything went great,” McGrath said. “We registered close to 100 voters on election day. It was hopping here like I’ve never seen it on election day. Generally, we get a lot of phone calls and we have to go out to precincts. … We’ll go out to the precincts and check on tech things with either the tabulators or the (electronic poll books), but everything from that perspective was really smooth. My election inspectors are amazing, and I didn’t get a single complaint from people having to wait too long at the precincts.”