School districts line May ballot with bonding proposals

Voters will decide in Holt, Waverly, Okemos and Fowlerville

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FRIDAY, April 23 — Four local school districts are leaning on new tax levies and millage renewals to drive renovations, new construction and other improvements for students in Greater Lansing.

Five items are up for a vote at a special election set for May 4. Here’s a quick overview:

Holt Public Schools

This school district in Ingham and Eaton counties is leaning on a bond issue to reconfigure the layout of its school buildings — with plans to reconstruct two elementary schools over the next eight years and close Hope Middle School altogether. And tax rates would still decrease.

The proposal calls for borrowing up to $148 million, repaid through an annual property tax levy of 3.39 mills — or about $3.39 for each $1,000 of taxable property value within the district. The rate that will expire is 5.16 mills, equating to a net decrease of 1.77 mills.

Among the district’s plans: Close Hope Middle School and return fifth-graders to elementary school while sending sixth-grade students to the same building as seventh- and eighth-graders. In turn, the high school would house grades 9-12 and the North Campus would become an “Innovation Center” that serves programs like Early College, dual college enrollment, robotics labs and courses in energy fundamentals, aviation, engineering and other technical topics.

Superintendent David Hornak said that reorganizing grade configurations could bolster student outcomes, improve behavior and “positively impact relationships'' in the district. The idea: The longer a student stays in any particular building, the more opportunities they have for success.

Holt Public Schools hasn’t sought voter approval for a bond proposal since 2000, which was then focused on funding for the high school. This proposal, Hornak explained, would focus on the elementary level by reconstructing two elementary buildings on opposite ends of the district.

Other improvements include: More secure building entrances; improved traffic flow in drop-off areas; reimagined playgrounds; HVAC upgrades with added air conditioning; improvements to parking lots and sidewalks; new lighting, roofing, windows, plumbing and drinking fountains.

Waverly Community Schools

Superintendent Kelly Blake said this bonding proposal — which would keep taxes flat for district families — resulted from a year-long study that included a comprehensive facility assessment, board work sessions and dozens of staff meetings. The plan focuses largely on adding capacity at the elementary buildings and ensuring buildings are safe and secure.

The renewal would generate $125 million and keep the tax rate flat at 4.12 mills — or $4.12 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. The cash would be used to remodel and build additions to elementary buildings as well as improve athletic facilities, parking lots and playgrounds. Other plans include district security improvements, new furnishings and upgraded district technology.

Okemos Public Schools

This Ingham County school district has two millage renewal proposals on the May 4 ballot.

A sinking fund proposal would maintain a 0.9861 mill levy (or about $0.99 on each $1,000 of taxable value) for the next 10 years, generating about $1.3 million annually for the construction or repair of school buildings, security enhancements and upgraded district technology. Officials said that includes funding for items like roof repairs, repaved parking lots and other projects.

The other proposal is a heavy hitter, providing more than 15% of the district’s annual budget. This renewal would allow the district to continue receiving its full per-pupil allocation from the state government, enabling the continued collection of a statutory 18 mills on all non-homestead properties like vacation homes, businesses, land and other rental properties in the district. That funding, unlike specific bonding proposals, can be rolled directly into daily district operations.

Fowlerville Community Schools

Though most students reside in Livingston County, portions of this district dip into eastern Ingham County. If this bonding proposal passes, the existing millage rate would would remain 9.55 mills — or $9.55 for every $1,000 of taxable property value.

District officials said the $37.8 million collected through the proposal would allow for construction of a new K-2 elementary school building near Sharpe Road, which would open in 2023. Air conditioning would also be installed at two district buildings beginning next summer.

Other planned improvements include: Upgrading and converting H.T. Smith Elementary School into an early childhood center and continued upgrades to aging student technology and devices.

 

 

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