By Brian Stone – YAN – DEARBORN, Mich.
Voters in Dearborn will be asked a single question on the November 5th election ballot and school aid funds are up for a vote.
The BRICS (Buildings, Renovations, Infrastructure, Capacity and Safety) Bond is up for a vote and the issue is whether to issue new bonds for renovating Dearborn’s aging schools.
Hussein Hachem, Co-chair of the Citizens for Dearborn Schools political group that is spearheading the pro-bond efforts in the city, said that voting for the bond is about putting kids first.
“It will ensure our kids have access to free public schools that are a model on a local, state and national level. The BRICS bond is an investment in all of our 34 buildings of which 24 are over 65 years old,” said Hachem. “With age comes critical maintenance that needs to be addressed to avoid any [disturbance] in our classrooms.”
However, others have come out against the bond, saying that they don’t trust the way the district is spending the money, and that they don’t feel the bond addresses critical issues.
Albert Abbas, who has two children in Dearborn public schools and who was a DPS student himself, has been working against the bond effort as part of the Dearborn Parents for Better Schools effort. Abbas was critical of the timing of the bond as well, saying that it minimized voter input.
“Placing this bond on a non election year when historically you will only see a few thousand voters determining the future of 100,000 residents, is not fair. They could have easily waited 6 months to run this bond proposal during an election year. This would have been the more responsible route,” said Abbas.
Abbas and other Dearborn Parents for Better Schools members say that the bond didn’t address the issues parents really care about, like the pickup and dropoff conditions at the schools, and it doesn’t address teacher pay or the overcrowding in classrooms.
According to the Dearborn Public School’s “Frequently Asked Questions,” regarding the bond, bond funds can’t be used for salary or school supplies, and so this can only apply to building renovations and other infrastructure upgrades.
Hachem contends the money will be well spent.
“Our schools received multiple awards for fiscal responsibility and clean books. We are a model of responsible financial practices all over the U.S.,” said Hachem. “Over 65 community members and experts met for several months and toured the district and came up with a recommendation to the Board of Education that is aiming to address infrastructure, capacity and security that will not increase taxes on our Dearborn residents, as the current millage rate of 4.82 will stay the same.”
The bond replaces an existing set of bonds that equal the same amount in taxes. However, if voters don’t approve the bond, their school bonds-associated millage rate would go down from 4.82 to 1.5 after 2020, reducing the taxes on a $200,000 home by about $332 per year. The bond will cover more than $240 million in planned upgrades in the district, and Dearborn Public Schools has published a list on their website of the planned projects that the money will be spent on in each school if the bond is approved.
Thanks to rules voted in last year, anyone can vote absentee without needing any explanation. Residents don’t have to show up on November 5th if they vote early. By submitting an absentee ballot request to the city clerk’s office, you can receive your ballot in the mail, no questions asked. The city clerk’s office has forms at city hall, and the forms can be found online.