Ann Arbor $1 billion school bond passes

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Voters Tuesday approved a $1 billion bond issue to modernize Ann Arbor Public Schools classroom buildings, some of which are nearing 100 years old.

Tappan Middle School opened in 1950.

According to final, unofficial results, 53.3% of voters backed the bond issue.

Jennifer Matthews voted against the Ann Arbor proposal because she didn’t have faith the district would use the finances properly.

“I live near Carpenter School and have observed the work done over the summer to expand that school from K-6 to K-8. It is outrageous how badly this project was executed,” she wrote on the Ann Arbor Public Schools' Facebook page.

“Fencing hasn't been replaced; landscaping hasn't been done around the new sidewalk so water will get under the new concrete and destroy it over the winter," Matthews wrote. "The pull-off for the buses from the road is concrete; the road is not. Wasn't there a project manager to insure this work was done completely/properly? This experience doesn't inspire me to trust the district with a billion dollars.”

In the first six years of the 22-year bond issue, work would include the construction of two schools, which would initially be used as staging space while other buildings are retrofitted, then eventually used as neighborhood schools.

According to district figures, enrollment climbed from 16,471 in fall 2009 to 17,945 in fall 2018 and is projected to rise to 19,195 in fall 2023. The district says its average building is 63 years old, with five schools dating to the 1920s.

Last year, the district hired EMG of Owings Mills, Maryland, to assess the condition of the district's school buildings. In an executive summary released in December, EMG program manager Andy Hupp wrote that "the facilities were found to be in overall good to fair condition and have had an adequate level of maintenance over the past few years."

He concluded: "However, without substantial upfront investment, many of the schools Facility Condition Index (Immediate and short term needs / replacement value of the facility) will fall into the ‘poor’ rating within a few years."  

If passed, the bond proposal calls for plans including constructing two new schools; adding air conditioning, solar power and LED lighting in many buildings; safety and security improvements; renovating media centers, cafeterias and front offices; replacing buses; as well as other site upgrades.

In the first year, the millage rate is projected to increase by 1.65 mills, over the 2019 debt levy of 2.45 mills, to 4.1 mills.

The owner of a house with a market value of $276,000 would pay roughly $228 more per year, according to the district.

Mark Hicks contributed.