Gladstone schools to refinance bond debt

GLADSTONE – The Gladstone School Board voted to refinance the district’s bond debt Monday night and discussed education reforms being made at the state level.

“This isn’t something that’s new to us,” said Board President Linda Howlett of the changes to the district’s bond debt. “This is something that we have done multiple times with our bond projects in the past and it saved us or saved the taxpayers a significant amount of money.”

While technically a “Refunding Bond Resolution” the board noted the resolution was not a refund, but rather a refinancing of the district’s bond debt to take advantage of current interest rates.

“It does not mean that taxes will go down but what it means is that bonds get paid off earlier … and that saves money, about a quarter-of-a-million dollars as a result of the refinancing or refunding, and it does not cost the district anything,” said Howlett.

Board members believe refinancing will not only save the district money, but taxpayers will have less of a burden to bear.

“In the long run anytime we do this there is a trickle down cut in the property taxes for our residents,” said Board Vice President Steve O’Driscoll. “It’s not something that they get to see tomorrow because we pass this resolution today, but this generally puts more money into the bond repayment coffers … and as a result we make a cut in our tax rate, and that’s a benefit to our taxpayers.”

Gladstone Superintendent Jay Kulbertis also updated board members, teachers, and staff about a variety of educational issues being discussed in Lansing.

“Much of the recent education-related legislation was packaged together in various forms to try to put something together that would garner enough support,” said Kulbertis. He referenced a series of bills that include proposed expansions to the Education Achievement Authority, which functions as a state-run school district overseeing schools with persistently low academic achievement.

The EAA is in its second school year running 15 Detroit schools, however, the proposed expansions and the attached education reforms have not been passed.

Changes to the Michigan Merit Curriculum Common Core failed to pass. Kulbertis believes the curriculum will be sent back to committee to be revisited.

The color-coded grading system rolled out earlier this year to measure school accountability also failed to pass and will be revisited. The system assigns schools and districts a color ranking based on performance in certain areas – which are also ranked in colors.

From best to worst, schools and districts can receive green, lime, yellow, orange, and red rankings. If a school receives a red ranking in a specific area, the school as a whole can only receive a yellow ranking. Due to the confusion caused by the color system, legislators are considering returning to a letter grade system.

Additionally, legislation requiring schools across the state to keep epinephrine auto-injectors – commercially known as EpiPens – which are used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, has been passed.

“They did also pass legislation to hold trained, school staff not liable. If they think someone is going into anaphylactic shock they have permission to use the appropriate EpiPen, which districts will be required to have and then apply for funding,” said Kulbertis. The legislation has not yet been signed by the governor.

“Chances are they’ll have to pass some type of appropriations for it because there clearly is no money built into the budget for statewide EpiPen purchases,” Kulbertis added.