AAPS Trustees Approve Millage Proposal for May Ballot

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education organizational/regular meeting (January 17, 2018): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will vote themselves into executive session at 5:30 PM this evening, citing attorney/client privilege. Executive sessions are closed to the public. The regular meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

Tonight’s meeting will be a combination of an organizational meeting and a regular meeting. The organizational meeting is held the first meeting of the new calendar year. The election of officers takes place, the parliamentarian is appointed,  committee assignments are made, and the meeting schedule is approved.

The December Monthly Budget Monitoring Report will be presented as an information item.

There are three first briefing items on the agenda. They include a Playground Equipment Purchase for Bach Elementary; Classroom Area Rugs Purchase; and a Utility Vehicles Purchase.

There are no second briefing items on the agenda.

The consent agenda will include the approval of meeting minutes and donations.

Board action will be taken on the 2018 Operating Mills Proposal. This action had been deferred from the last meeting, since there were only four trustees present. While technically a quorum, they wanted a stronger vote for the proposal. Also, the trustees will work to approve a Superintendent Evaluation Timeline. Several attempts have been made to approve such a timeline, but so far, the trustees cannot agree on if it should be a timeline based on the calendar year or the school year.


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Present: President Christine Stead, Vice President Susan Baskett, Trustees Harmony Mitchell, Patricia Manley, Jeff Gaynor, Jessica Kelly, Simone Lightfoot; Superintendent Jeanice Swift

7:18 PM President Christine Stead calls the regular meeting to order.

SPECIAL RECOGNITION ITEM: School Board Recognition Month

Superintendent Swift says that she feels it is important to take the time to recognize the trustees during January, School Board Recognition Month.

The effective governance of a school district involves “so much more” than just the technical responsibilities required of a board, says Swift. Trustees “tirelessly do the good work on behalf of all of our children.” As superintendent, Swift is “proud to be part of this organization and to serve alongside these very fine trustees.” She encourages members of the Ann Arbor community to thank the trustees for the effort they give.

Artwork from James Wong, Skyline High School senior, is given to each of the trustees. A video is shown.

PUBLIC COMMENTARY: Three community members

Theresa Visintainer, community member and Clague Middle School neighbor: speaks on the proposed development across the street from Clague Middle School. She is concerned about traffic safety. Peak times of traffic create hazardous conditions, she says. Additional development in the area will add more She thanks Swift for her letter to the community, and her emphasis on safety. She thanks the trustees for their attention to this critical matter. She asks them to consider the impact the development will have on the area and on the students.

Margaret Baker, President of Clague PTSO, AAPS parent: came on behalf of Clague community. She speaks on the development of a Rainbow Childcare Center on land adjacent to Clague. Parents are disturbed that the proposal has moved so quickly. She asks that the trustees visit the site, especially during drop off and pick up times. She is concerned about traffic congestion and student safety. She asks them to get the message of “safety first” to the City of Ann Arbor.

James Moon, community member, Clague neighbor: He, too, is opposed to the development near Clague. He urges the board to pay close attention to this congested area. Ann Arbor City Council has postponed their decision on the site, waiting to hear from the BOE.  He asks that they speak up to City.

Stead says they were meeting in Executive Session prior to tonight’s regular meeting to discuss their options. She asks Swift to speak to the community.

In December, Swift says, they became aware of the progress of the development of a childcare center. She thanks all the members of the community who reached out to voice their concerns. From the very day they learned of the situation, Swift says, they began interacting with City Manager Lazarus and City Council members to figure out their options. The district’s top priority is the safety of students. They’ve made solid progress with the City on improving transportation safety.

Clague is a hot spot for traffic, says Swift. Swift and the trustees share the community’s concern for this development. As they understand more about the development of this issue, they will provide updates to the community regarding the development and the steps the district is taking. They are working through their legal processes to determine the most effective next steps.

Stead acknowledges the presence of Ann Arbor City Council Member Jane Lumm. She encourages AAPS families to attend the City Council meeting on February 5 at 7PM. She says that AAPS will have a presence at that meeting.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING: Office Positions

The trustees vote on Officer positions. They begin with nominations received for the role of President.

Nominations for President: 

  • Baskett nominates Stead

Nominations are closed. The votes are read aloud. Stead is unanimously elected to the position of President for a second year in a row.

Nominations for Vice President:

  • Manley nominates Baskett

Nominations are closed. The votes are read aloud. Baskett is unanimously elected to the position of Vice President for a second year.

Nominations for Secretary: 

  • Mitchell nominates Gaynor

Nominations are closed. After the votes are read aloud, Gaynor is unanimously elected to the position of Secretary for a second year.

Nominations for Treasurer:

  • Gaynor nominates Mitchell

Nominations are closed. After the votes are read aloud, Mitchell is unanimously elected Treasurer for a second year in a row.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING: Parliamentarian Appointment

Stead asks Lightfoot to stay on in her role as the Parliamentarian.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING: Committee Assignments

  • Planning: Manley (chair), Gaynor, Baskett
  • Finance subcommittee: Mitchell (chair), Kelly, Stead
  • Performance: Lightfoot (chair), Kelly, Gaynor
  • Governance: Stead (chair), Manley, Mitchell

Stead recommends keeping the finance subcommittee functioning right now.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING: Administrative Committees

  • City Schools Committee: Gaynor, manley
  • MASB Legislative Relations Network: Kelly
  • MASB Government Relations Network: Lightfoot
  • Recreation Advisory Commission: Manley
  • Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools: Baskett
  • Student Hearing Process Committee: Kelly, Lightfoot
  • Transportation Safety Committee: Gaynor
  • Washtenaw School Boards Association: Gaynor, Stead

ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING: Group/Student Participant Designation 

The trustees approve again the designation of the following groups as participants in school board meetings. Each of the following groups have a slot during Reports of Associations: Ann Arbor Administrative Association (AAAA); Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA); Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee (AAPAC); District Wide Black Parent Student Support Group (DWBPSSG); Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTOC); District high school student representatives.

ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING: Approval of Meeting Schedule

Stead notes they may make changes to the schedule. She notes the website will have the most recent, updated schedule.

The schedule is unanimously approved. 

AGENDA APPROVAL

The trustees vote to approve the agenda of the regular meeting.

Stead asks to move up the 2018 Operating Mills Proposal Board Action item to earlier in the agenda, given there is a guest who is present to speak on it. She suggests moving it before committee reports. It currently sits towards the very end of the meeting.

The agenda with the proposed change is unanimously approved. 

ASSOCIATION REPORTS: Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA)

Linda Carter, AAEA President: She notes the workshop on certification renewal that was presented last night for teachers. She recognizes Chris Erickson, Huron High English teacher, for his recent achievement.

BOARD PRESIDENT REPORT

Stead uses her President’s Report to highlight some of the board’s accomplishments over the past year. 2017 was a momentous year, as they passed two millages that year. It allows for some financial stability for AAPS and allows for them to begin infrastructure work.

The board was able to improve compensation for staff in 2017. They’ve been able to fully implement all the programs Swift initially suggested when she first came to the district. Stead says one of their greatest accomplishments in 2017 is the recognition of Swift as Michigan Superintendent of the Year.

Looking forward, they will work “harder together and tighter” to advocate for public education and for AAPS. She looks forward to fighting alongside the district’s teachers against the attacks on public education.

It’s going to be a challenging and exciting 2018, says Swift. She looks forward to the board growing tighter.

SUPERINTENDENT REPORT

Swift wishes the community a happy new year. She shares district highlights, from awards students from Huron High School received  at the 2018 BPA Regional Leadership Conference, to achievements of teachers, to a celebration of 50 years of Huron High School, to events in celebration of MLK day.

Swift introduces Emile Lauzzana, who was recently hired as the Executive Director of Physical Properties. The position has gone unfilled since Jennifer Hein left the district over the summer of 2017. Lauzzana is a LEED accredited design professional, licensed architect. He believes the district is poised for big gains in sustainability.

Swift goes over a list of 2017 highlights. She then previews 2018 coming attractions.

  • Strategic Plan 2018 work
  • Continued expansion of schools to accommodate enrollment growth
  • 2018-19 enhancements for schools enhanced environmental education programming
  • Continued classroom enhancements: furniture & technology
  • Safe Schools (No Guns in Schools) suit goes to Michigan Supreme Court

BOARD ACTION: 2018 Operating Mills Proposal

Stead says this millage is one of the most foundational questions a community can ask itself: do you want to fund public education? Yes or no? This millage is a requirement of 1996’s Proposal A.

The operating millage is the fundamental base of operating public schools in Michigan. The district is taking some steps in this millage to ensure that what the voters approve is what the district will be able to collect. In recent years, the district has not been able to collect the full 18 mills because of the Headlee rollback.

Regarding timing, Swift says, the amount that would come into the district would be an additional $1.3-$1.4M, if the millage was approved in 2018 before it expires in 2019.

Everything is in draft form this evening, says Swift.

The Operating Millage Proposal is shown. Stead points to some key items. As property values have increased in Ann Arbor, the district has not been able to collect the full 18 mills because of the Headlee rollback. The Headlee rollback serves as a kind of governor. The proposal gives the district a 3 mills buffer. This is primarily a non-homestead millage, which means it will not impact homeowners’ property taxes.

Gaynor says, given the shortfall in funding from the State, he is entirely in support of this proposal, which returns the 18 mills on non-homestead property.

He questions the timing of the election. The current millage expires in 2019. This would move the return up a year, which would give the district an additional $1.3M to $1.4M this next year. Currently, this would be the only item on the May ballot. If it is the only item on the ballot, the district would assume the full cost of running the election. The cost is estimated to be ~$100K.

When the first levy would occur depends on how you frame the ballot language. If the election were held in 2019, the levy could not be made before then. If the election were in August or November, the language could be made so a special levy could be collected in December. Swift emphasizes that if a levy were collected in December, it would be for the full amount instead of spread out over the summer and the winter tax bills.

Mitchell expresses some concern over the cost of running the election. Lightfoot says it’s important to look at the ramifications of the changes Gaynor and Mitchell are suggesting.

If the proposal were put on the ballot in May, it could be included in the budget of the 2018-19 FY and it could be done as a split levy, so non-homestead properties could pay half on their summer tax bill and half in the winter, instead of paying the full amount in December.  Turnout tends to be lower in

The November ballot will be a long one this year. The advantages of holding it in November: the district would not need to pay for the election. The tradeoffs: because it’s a long ballot, there tends to be drop off before the end of the ballot.

Mitchell explains that she asked that question to get a better clarification for the community. Gaynor guesses that the turnout for a one item ballot in May would be fairly low.

Baskett asks for the rationale for the 20 year duration of the millage.  She recalls that they made that initial decision because of consistency of funding and to alleviate voter fatigue. Gaynor says this is the basic operating millage. If they can’t assume 20 years on the basic foundation grant, then they should be very concerned. Without this millage, the district would not be able to function.

Manley asks about the cost of the election. Marios Demetriou confirms that it would be about $100K, for a return of nearly $2M. Kelly asks when the Headlee rollback calculation is made.

Baskett believes they can’t afford not to do it in May. This is a non-homestead tax, so it doesn’t impact homeowners. This millage is the foundation of the way the district is funded by the State. She says they need to be very clear to taxpayers what the intention of this millage is.

Swift says they work to be as transparent with the public, making sure to have information sessions and literature available. That kind of transparency and communication is more difficult to do in an August election versus one held in May or in November, when school is in session.

The trustees vote on the proposal, which is for a May ballot item and for the mills needed to account for the Headlee rollback.

The deadline for the district to submit the proposal to the county for inclusion on the ballot would be February 12.

It turns out that an AAPS millage might not be the only one on a May ballot. It appears AAATA has a millage recommendation, which they are discussing tomorrow.

The motion to approve the proposal carries with a 6 to 1 vote. Gaynor votes against the ballot proposal. 

Kelly asks that AAPS informs AAATA regarding the decision to put a proposal on the May ballot, to potentially get them to help share the cost.

9:38PM Stead checks in with the trustees to see if they need to talk a short break. The meeting is adjourned for five minutes.

9:56PM The meeting reconvenes.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Planning: Most recent meeting dealt with 2018-19 Enhancements. Will be coming up at future regular meeting.

Financial: They looked at playground purchases and classroom rugs. Will meet again 2/7.

Performance: Next meeting 2/22.

Governance: Hasn’t met since last board meeting. Next meeting is 1/26.

INFORMATION ITEM: December Monthly Budget Monitoring Report

Swift says they pride themselves on monitoring the budget on a monthly basis. Before Marios Demetriou, Assistant SuperintendentFinance & Operations, launches into his report, she gives some general reminders:

General Reminders

  • Revenues flow unevenly throughout the Fiscal Year
    • state aid
    • tax collection timing
    • grant timing
  • Expenditures flow unevenly throughout the FY
    • school calendar
    • projects and initiatives
    • payroll calendar (3 pay periods)

Comparison of Cash and Investments: General Fund is $2.4M less this year than last year.

Monthly Expenditures: $~20M

Comparisons of Summary of All Funds Report

  • Revenue: $102.8M, percent change of 9.3% – 41.9% collected
  • Expenditures: $99.1M, percent change of 6.9% – 40.6% expended

Demetriou says there was some tax based adjustments the state had to reimburse the district last year – a one-time line item of $3.5M. An increase in enrollment and to the foundation allowance also helps the bottom line.

Lightfoot asks about the $3.5M reimbursement. Demetriou explains it by saying there were some tax court cases that were resolved by the tax base going down, which means the State needs to make up the difference. Swift cautions that what ever the State gives, it can also take away. There have been decisions where tax cases go the other way, and the tax base would increase, which would mean the district would need to pay. Lightfoot emphasizes that the Fund Balance is their only cushion against such unexpected decisions.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Playground Equipment: Bach Elementary

Swift again thanks the AAPS community for their support of the 2015 Bond. She thanks the Advisory Committee that did the work on the playgrounds.

Swift says Bach’s work is right in line with the district goals. The $109K is fully funded through the 2015 Bond.

Baskett asks where the playground equipment would be. Some of it would be a replacement of the climber near the school building, and some of the pieces will go on the “big playground” across the street.

Gaynor notes that he taught at Bach for ten years.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Classroom Area Rug Purchase

Area rugs for Phase II Schools: Ann Arbor Open, Angell, Bach, Buens Park, Dickens, Haisley, Lawton, Logan, Thurston

Lightfoot asks if the rugs are washable. Dawn Linden, Executive Director Elementary Education replies that they need to be steam cleaned. The life of the rugs is 10+ years. As the new furniture goes in, the new rugs go in. This will complete the implementation of new rugs in the core classrooms at Phase II schools.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Utility Vehicles Purchase

The proposal is to purchase 11 new vehicles to replace 14 of the most worn vehicles in the district. The vehicles that are being replaced range between 14 and 27 years old. The vehicles are used by the IT, Physical Properties, Res & ED, and Transportation Departments.

The total cost is $301,757.30, which will be paid out of the Capital Projects Fund. Lightfoot asks if they got the best deal, given the district is spending a considerable amount of money. The bid was put out by the State, so the district piggybacks on a larger bid.

Manley asks what the district will do with the old vehicles that are being replaced. They will be resold.

Baskett says the prices look reasonable. She asks if these are purchases, not leasing. Demetriou says that because the district keeps the vehicles for over 10 years, it only makes sense to purchase them. Baskett asks if the district gave local dealerships the option to bid. Given that AAPS didn’t do the bidding themselves, but joined a greater State bid, AAPS couldn’t focus on local dealerships.

Mitchell asks if the auto program can use any of these vehicles. Swift says she will follow up on Mitchell’s idea.

Lightfoot asks if there’s a benefit of donating the vehicles for a tax write-off. Demetriou says because the district is a tax exempt organization, they don’t really file taxes other than payroll taxes. Before they give something away, legally, they have to offer it to the public. After that process is completed, then they can donate it. Lightfoot suggests they should have a yearly sale in surplus and old items. Swift says they have tried sales in the past without much success. The district works to follow their disposal process.

CONSENT AGENDA

  • Approval of meeting minutes
  • Approval of donations

The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION ITEM: Superintendent Evaluation Timeline

The board has been deliberating on choosing either a calendar year timeline (January-December) or a school year timeline (July-June).

Manley says that since she was someone who kept them at an impasse, she has thought about both options very carefully. She is going to support the calendar year because 1) she doesn’t think the superintendent should be on the same evaluation cycle as the people she is in charge of. 2) the superintendent needs to gather all of the information from the previous year. If she’s on the same cycle as they are, she doesn’t have time to gather all that information.

Manley makes a motion to approve a calendar year eval timeline. It is seconded.

Kelly asks how many cycles does this vote hold for? Is it in perpetuity? Stead says they would want to give it a chance. Baskett says they would go with it until they voted to change it. Kelly asks a Robert’s Rule of Order question.

Lightfoot looks forward to getting past this. She hasn’t heard a case made for why it made perfect sense to make this change. Keeping the academic year for the superintendent makes sense to Lightfoot. Speaking to leadership and vision, they have always provided that for the superintendent. She does not support the change for the sake of change.

Baskett: Y, Gaynor: Y, Kelly: N, Lightfoot: N, Manley: Y, Mitchell: Y, Stead: N

The motion passes 4 to 3

AGENDA PLANNING: None

ITEMS FROM THE BOARD

Kelly welcomes Lauzzana to the district and says his qualifications is exactly what the district needs at this time.

Gaynor says he’ll introduce his teaching assistant at the next board meeting.

Mitchell highlights an event she attended at Huron High.

Lightfoot keeps the State Superintendent of Education lifted as he works through some health issues that were made public over the holidays.

Baskett speaks about MLK celebrations she attended at Bryant Elementary and Eastern Michigan University. She is grateful we live in a community where there are two universities that celebrate and honor MLK.

10:51 PM MEETING IS ADJOURNED

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