Three New Trustees Sworn In; Sinking Fund Millage Increase Proposed

Arbor Public Schools Board of Education organizational meeting (January 18, 2017): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will meet in executive session at 5:30 PM this evening, citing attorney/client privilege. Executive sessions are closed to the public.

The organizational meeting, starting at 7:00 PM, will be the first of the year with a new board. Three new trustees will join the board at this meeting: Jeff Gaynor, Harmony Mitchell, and Jessica Kelly. Gaynor and Mitchell were elected on November 8; Kelly was selected by the previous Board on December 16 to fill a seat vacated by Donna Lasinski.

After the new trustees are sworn in, an election will be held for Board officers, and the Parliamentarian will be appointed. Committee assignments will be determined, and the 2017 meeting schedule will be approved.

Two first briefings are scheduled. Jill Minnick, Chief Financial Officer, will cover the liability insurance renewal. A sinking fund millage proposal will also be made.

Board action will taken to accept the Board of Canvassers report of the November 8, 2106 election.

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7:13 PM Christine Stead calls the meeting to order. Present: Susan Baskett, Patricia Manley, Jeff Gaynor, Harmony Mitchell, Jessica Kelly, Simone Lightfoot; Superintendent Jeanice Swift


Kelly, Mitchell, and Gaynor formally take the oath of office.


Stead explains the voting process. As each officer position is announced position, Stead will share the nominations already made for each position and will also open the floor for additional nominations. Each trustee has a ballot for each position. If there is a majority vote for any position, then that person will be the elected officer. If no majority, they will vote again.

President Nomination: Stead

Stead is unanimously elected to the position of Board President.

Vice President Nomination: Baskett

Baskett is unanimously elected to the position of Board Vice President.

Secretary Nomination: Kelly, Gaynor

  • Kelly: Lightfoot, Stead, Kelly
  • Gaynor: Manley, Baskett, Mitchell, Gaynor

Gaynor has the majority and is elected Board Secretary.

Treasurer Nomination: Mitchell

Mitchell is unanimously elected to the position of Board Treasurer. 


 Stead, Baskett, Gaynor, and Mitchell take the oath of office for their respective offices.

Parliamentarian: Stead asks Lightfoot to continue on as Board Parliamentarian.


PLANNING: Manley as Chair; Gaynor and Kelly

PERFORMANCE: Lightfoot as Chair;  Baskett and Mitchell

GOVERNANCE: Stead as Chair; Manley and Mitchell

  • City/Schools Committee: Gaynor, Manley
  • Rec & Ed: Manley
  • Michigan Association of School Boards: Lightfoot
  • Transportation Safety: Gaynor
  • Washtenaw Association of School Boards: Stead currently serves as President of WASB, Gaynor
  • Legislative Representative Network: Kelly
  • Expulsion and Reinstatement: Lightfoot and Kelly
  • AAPS Ed Foundation Board: TBD
  • Healthplace 101: Baskett


Stead makes a motion to maintain the groups they invited to participate and present at each board meeting.

  • Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA)
  • Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA)
  • Parent/Teacher Organization Council (PTOC)
  • Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education (AAPAC)
  • Black Parent and Student Support Group (BPSSG)
  • Arab-American Parent Support Group (AAPSG)
  • District Student Representatives

Unanimously approved


Stead asks the trustees to take a look at the proposed meeting schedule, which is updated through July 2017.

The board meeting schedule is unanimously approved. 




AAEA: Linda Carter, President: Today is the 82nd ilyy of school. Says the AAEA is looking forward to working collaboratively with the new school board. The next few days, months, years will require vigilance. The political waters at local, state, and national levels will be challenging. Important to make concerted effort to look for positive solutions on issues that may come up. She urges them to “have some courageous conversations” that will lead to enhancing our school district.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Liability Insurance Renewa

Swift notes this is an annual process for the district to review their liability insurances to make sure they are getting the best value and coverage for their dollar. They are able to make a recommendation to save the district over $138K from last year to this year. An adjustment made on how the deductible works, which Minnick will be going over. Swift reminds the trustees how grateful they were for good coverage when Allen Elementary flooded in August 2016.

Per BOE policy, the district reviews insurance coverage annually. Daly Merritt, the district insurance agent, reviewed and met with the administrative team in early January. Cost of insurance premiums come out of General Fund.

Property Insurance: recommending purchase of liability insurance coverage. Will result in savings of $138K over last year’s premium, $210K in savings comparing renewal rate.

To renew all the expiring policies, it would cost $839,550 with an additional $1M in extra expense coverage to go with the current carrier. The district received three other quotes from AIG. Minnick recommends the trustees go with the Liability Option 3 from AIG, which would cost $628,884. Will result in a premiums savings over the renewal rate from Affiliated FM, but with a lower deductible and a higher level of coverage.

Lightfoot asks how AIG was able to be so much less expensive than the district’s current carrier, Affiliated FM.

Kyle O’Malley, Daily Merit, explains that the current carrier is “fatiguing” from district claims. AIG has some concerns with district claims, which is why the deductible isn’t a  straight $10K, as it has been in the past.

Gaynor asks how the third option from AIG differs from the other two options. The first two options have lower deductibles. Gaynor also asks about flood insurance. AIG doesn’t include a separate rider for flood insurance because they are including all the flood exposures with the $600K property

Mitchell asks if the district has looked at comparative districts who make similar claims. O’Malley says they don’t have access to that kind of information, but they do look back at the district’s claims.

Swift thanks O’Malley for the level of service he provided when it came to the Allen flood. She was reassured that he was there whenever they needed him.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: 2017 Sinking Fund Millage Proposal

8:01 PM Swift introduces a sinking fund millage proposal. An overview to give an idea of what the district’s thinking is. Responsibility of more than 3.1M square feet of property. Sinking fund is the millage that is levied in the sate of Michigan that is for repairing and building school buildings.

Recommending that they consider an increase to the AAPS Sinking Fund Millage to cover three pressing areas:

  • Renewal, repair, and replacement of infrastructure
    • 32 school buildings, average age of 60 years
    • HVAC, roofing, essential repairs, updating aging systems, building restoration
  • Expansion of facilities to meet housing growth demands
    • in North , South, and West sides of town
  • Complete 2015 Bond work
    • Elementary playgrounds, auditorium repairs, security enhancements, outdoor learning spaces
    • Swift says that while they were able to begin much of this work with the Bond money, which didn’t raise taxes, they will be able to do more with an increase to the Sinking Fund millage.

Proposed Sinking Fund Millage Increase & Extension

  • May 2017 election
  • Increase to 2, 2.5, or 3 mills
  • would add $50 to each $100K taxable value of home per each .5 mill added

Swift says at this point, the new real estate development will not facilitate the need for new school buildings. The expansion, as they see it, looks like it will be focused into elementary schools. For each of those elementary schools, it would mostly likely mean an addition of five to seven new classrooms, with a class added at each grade level. She likened the need for expansion to a similar level as what the district did for Mitchell Elementary.

Swift requests the BOE to assess an increase and extension of the Sinking Fund Millage. She also asks that they consider moving the millage from 1 mill to somewhere between that and 3 mill.

Kelly says that before Skyline, the original millage was higher at 1.5. Part of the bargain was that the district lowered the millage, then the recession hit. The district has been operating with a lower millage rate. She’s concerned that it’s “time to stop patching the tires” and get some new ones.

Gaynor recognizes that some schools are already bursting at the seams. He sees the need for growth and repair. He asks that Swift explains more the need for supplementation of the 2015 Bond moneys.

Swift explains that the 2015 Bond committees had experts analyze the current conditions of the district. The committees each made recommendations, yet aren’t able to fund all the priorities.

Baskett reminds her colleagues that they need to make a decision quickly to get the proposal on the May ballot. She wants to make sure they are closer to what the district needs, but she doesn’t want to ask for the max (3 mills), saying that wouldn’t be fiscally responsible. She asks if they can get some idea of money that is needed and if they can “take the pulse” of the community.

Swift says their goal is to not only get target numbers, but to outline the first three to five years of projects on a heat map. Roofing over the next ten years is in the realm of $25M; HVAC is in the realm of $20M, not including A/C, although they would like to add A/C in many of the elementary schools. Swift says a pressing need is getting a location for A2Virtual+. 

Manley is in favor of them putting it on the May ballot. She sees the need for infrastructure improvement. She’s unsure how much they should ask for, however.

Lightfoot wants to make public the document that shows the buildings’ ages. She notes that they are in conversations of alternatives: expanding some, consolidating others, building or not building. Looking to maintain what they already have, but are also looking at alternatives. Bach Elementary, Burns Park Elementary, Community High School are all nearing 100 years old.

Mitchell is concerned looking at the numbers, seeing the age and level of repair of infrastructure and buildings. As a voter and a taxpayer, she has to look at the bottom line of what it’s going to cost each taxpayer. She wants to ask for “enough” but not too much where it gets “shot down” by the voters.

Stead offers several reasons she is in support of increasing Sinking Fund and asking for what they can. This is more incremental in nature, she says, over the course of ten years. Needs of the district: 7-10 building expansions, no surprises. Need of $140M, at the very least.  They have an obligation to accommodate the growth of the district. She wants to maintain the work they’ve done, without cramped classrooms. She isn’t sure what they can expect with the changes in national leadership. It behooves the district to be financially stronger in the faces of the winds blowing their way from Lansing and Washington.

Swift will present the Board with some numbers next meeting, at which they will need to vote on the proposal and the amount.

Gaynor recognizes that the district has asked many staff members for sacrifices over the past ten years. When we’re protecting the district, he says, this comes into play. They need to look to rectify some of that, Gaynor says.

Baskett summarizes that they will need to decide by the next meeting on January 25. They will get as much information as they have on the district website to inform the community. Swift will get as much info to the trustees as the anticipated costs. Baskett says they will welcome feedback from the community. She says this is a tough decision for her to make. Not that it’s not important, but that “it’s exhausting.” The county-wide special education millage will also be up for a renewal, Baskett notes.


8:43 PM Donations and minutes are on the consent agenda.

The consent agenda is approved unanimously.

BOARD ACTION: Acceptance of Board of Canvassers Report of the November 8, 2016 Election

The report is accepted unanimously.


Swift welcomes Gaynor, Mitchell, and Kelly. Swift reaffirms her commitment to AAPS and to the Board. Quality Counts 2016 report: National Gold Standard of how states are doing at the national level. In Michigan, “there is work to do.” In this national report, Michigan ranks 48th in the nation. Michigan currently ranks a D- in funding.

Despite the challenges, she is grateful for the teachers and for the students. She says a district is better when governed by a strong board. Her team is here to support them, she confirms.

Swift also notes several highlights around the district, from Community High’s jazz band to the Huron High School’s BPA chapter success at the BPA Regional Leadership Competition.

Swift thanks City Manager Lazarus, saying they are working together to address issues of traffic safety around the schools. They are making progress in reducing speed limits and increasing signage around school safety zones.  Ten schools are getting designated as “school zones” which will drop the speed limit.

Grief and loss support workshops: first one coming up on January 26, 6:30-8:00.


Manley asks when the board retreat will be happening. Baskett says she would like to talk about the ESSA – Every Student Succeeds Act. She wants to talk about the impact this Act will have on the district, to which Lightfoot jokes that “the State will not know.”

Mitchell asks for clarification on this part of the meeting. Stead says this is the opportunity for trustees to ask for items to be added to future agendas. Once items are suggested, it will allow for the executive committee, Swift, and the administrative team to determine


Baskett introduces Talk to the Trustees Thursdays. Will happen twice a month. A chance for members of the public to chat with the trustees. The first meeting will be on 1/26, 5:30PM at Bryant Elementary.

Stead: January 28th, an opportunity to come together across Washtenaw County. Equity and Opportunity – all trustees and all superintendents are invited. First time gotten together in a purposeful way to focus on student need across the county.

Lightfoot shares that Charles Graham, Skyline graduate, is covering the Presidential Inauguration in DC. She says he continues to represent the district well.


9:14PM Stead adjourns the meeting.

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6 thoughts on “Three New Trustees Sworn In; Sinking Fund Millage Increase Proposed”

  1. Thanks, as always, Monet, for your excellent coverage.
    Ruth, yes, all 7 trustees were at the executive session. (Tonight’s swearing in was ceremonial. We were officially sworn in earlier.)
    One correction: On the Governance Committee the 3rd member is . Mitchell, not Gaynor.
    Expulsion and Reinstatement Committee: Lightfoot and Kelly.
    Board Members would like public feedback on the Sinking Fund Millage. Informational packets are now available on BoardDocs: Click on the Meeting Tab, then the Jan. 18 Organizational Meeting …

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