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Onaway schools left to see what’s next bond issue fails

November 8, 2012
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ONAWAY - Onaway Area Community Schools won't be issuing bonds to buy buses or computers - at least for some time to come.

Voters in the school district rejected a bond issue proposal Tuesday to upgrade school computer labs and buy new school buses by 1,462-1,134. These include numbers from Waverly and Forest townships in Cheboygan County. Now, district officials must consider their options for transportation and technology, Superintendent Rod Fullerton said.

Members of the district board of education likely will discuss the bond issue defeat at their next board meeting, Fullerton said, which will be Wednesday because the volleyball team advanced to the quarterfinals.

In the meantime, the district has budgeted $433,306.15 for transportation costs for the current school year, Fullerton said. He anticipates the need to buy another used school bus before classes end in the summer.

The bond issue debt would've been serviced by district property owners over eight years, Fullerton said in August after the district board of education voted to put the measure on the November ballot. The levy would have ranged from 0.32 mills to as much as 0.52 mills in the seventh year, depending on property values.

"I think there's just a contention of folks that are just against any new additional taxes, no matter if it's good or bad," Fullerton said Thursday, later acknowledging the still-struggling economy was likely a factor.

"I'm sure that had an impact," he said. "It's not the greatest of times to be increasing any tax, that's for sure."

If approved, the bond issue would've raised $645,000 to buy six new buses and replace aging machines in the district's computer labs, according to ballot language. The district has bought used school buses for more than a decade, Fullerton said. While Onaway bus drivers cover a relatively wide area, rust is a bigger concern than mechanical wear.

"We start experiencing some body rust-through in 10, 11 years," he said. "Once the body is rusted through, buses will no longer pass Michigan State Police inspection."

Some of the school lab computers are now seven or eight years old, and the district got them second-hand from the Railroad Retirement Board for a small fee, Fullerton said. Others are a few years newer. The district spends roughly $25,000 every year to keep technology up-to-date.

"We'll pick our oldest lab and focus on that, so we won't have everything replaced at one time," he said.

Had the bond issue passed, Fullerton said he expected to spend about $125,000 to replace them all at once.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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