Consolidation Plan for Schoolcraft Schools Approved

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Kathy Mastenbrook, school board trustee responds to an audience question on how the school building consolation will work. Board President Darby Fetzer listens intently.

By Sue Moore

Getting the dollars squared away for the proposed school building consolidation for the middle school and early elementary buildings in Schoolcraft kept the trustees doing their math at the June 13 board meeting.

The board wrestled with the cost of all the projects together and what would happen if they were not completed on time. One member of the audience, a teacher in another district, stressed that failure to complete the work before school begins could turn out to be a nightmare.

Kathy Descheneau, a third grade teacher spoke in favor of the plan as presented earlier to the teachers. “It is the right thing to do. It is time to do it,” she said.

With that said, the discussion centered around what funds should be utilized to pay for the change to the elementary school and the middle school. “Schoolcraft has the biggest fund balance of any other school district in Kalamazoo County for its size,” Trustee Kathy Mastenbrook said. “We have been fiscally responsible. We have been discussing this project for the last five to seven years. We put it off because we wanted to take a close look at our enrollment data. Since there are no known plans for growth in the village and township, we don’t anticipate lots of new students.”

The final number the board agreed to after much discussion was $600,000, which includes a 10 percent contingency figure. The estimated cost of all the work to be done is $563,000, according to the numbers Jason Walther was juggling in his head.

Board President Darby Fetzer remarked that the community felt the board should spend down its fund balance when they were looking at building a new middle school. Rita Broekema, the school’s financial planner for the last 16 years, said she felt comfortable with reducing the fund equity while still having enough in reserve should a boiler blow or some other catastrophic thing occur.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it! The cost is $200,000 more than originally talked about at our workshop, but I’m in favor of doing it right,” Walther said. The board approved this figure on a 5-1 vote, with Mike Rochholz absent but sending his thoughts as in favor of the project. Trustee Ryan Ledlow cast the no vote.

Meanwhile the budget was presented for 2016-17 by Broekema with a loss of only 20 students projected. There is a small increase of 1.41 percent for staff salaries along with the projects that had just been approved.

The August 2 ballot has a proposal that assures the district of continuing18 mills for operating millage on non-homestead properties, a product of Proposal A and Headlee amendments to the state constitution. “This is confusing to the public,” Mastenbrook said as she urged voters to approve what has now become standard language every ten years at election time for Schoolcraft. The total the school system projects to receive with this approval is approximately $770,700.

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