By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Dearborn Public Schools has been moving through the community to rally support for the $76 million SMART bond proposal it is placing on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, but at the Sept. 23 board of education meeting it brought the matter to the television viewing public.
“We want to make sure our viewers stay informed on the bond and can have any questions they have answered,” DPS Supt. Brian Whiston said. “We will continue to go out to meetings and inform people about the bond and what it will do for our district, but we also want to give a presentation to our viewers who can’t make it out to one of the public meetings.”
The money from the SMART bond would be used for security, modifications, additions, renovations, technology and transportation improvements for the district.
All schools in the district would receive upgrades to their security, modifications, technology and transportation, but a handful of buildings would be given additions and undergo renovations.
The bond would be for 20 years and would renew a retiring bond. The current 5.35 mill rate for school taxes would stay in place, something Whiston stated the community should consider when voting in November.
Whiston also said that state funding has been falling, leading the district to have to shift funds from other areas of the budget to make sure that the education in the classrooms doesn’t suffer from the drop.
“We receive 8.1 percent less per student from the state than we did just five years ago,” Whiston said. “We went from almost $9,100 to just over $8,300 in that period.”
He added that that drop in funding, which is just over $5 million total, has meant that the district can not put as much money into maintaining the buildings or consider expanding them with the general budget funds, though they need to do both.
“We are growing each year, which is a great thing and it has helped us to survive financially,” Whiston said. “Unfortunately, that has led to space issues in several of our buildings. The money from the bond would help address these issues by adding space for the over 2,000 students our district has added since 2000.”
He added that the additions and renovations aren’t to attract new students, but to enhance the experience of the student body at its current size.
Whiston said that the district last asked for a bond in 2002, which was for $150 million and addressed technology needs and overcrowded schools in the district.
“The board made promises in 2002 that they were going to get the bond to improve the schools,” Whiston said. “They kept those promises. The board has a great history of living up to their promises.”
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])