By Linda Lane
Schoolcraft school district voters on a Nov. 5 ballot will determine the fate of a $39.9 million bond proposal that includes a three-mill hike in homeowners’ current tax rates.
Included in the $39.9 million price tag are: a new pre-kindergarten-6th grade elementary school at a cost of $28.3 million; a new wing for grades 7 and 8 added to the High School, sharing common areas such as the library and cafeteria, for $8 million; improved security, additional accessibility for disabled students, more energy-efficient facilities and modernized learning spaces; and a renovation of athletic facilities, including a 6-lane running track at the Roy Davis Stadium, eight new tennis courts and other athletic improvements totaling $3.6 million.
For a homeowner with a $100,000 home in the district, the increase in property taxes of $3 per $1,000 taxable valuation will amount to approximately $150 per year.
Schoolcraft teachers, administrators, and community members received training to become “Informational Campaign Ambassadors” with a goal to help voters become informed on the bond proposal details. The training session was conducted by Rick Chambers, a communication consultant hired by the district. The session outlined “Top 10 Questions” on the bond proposal and basic details on why, what and how the bond proposal was developed.
The Schoolcraft Board of Education has had a Long-Term Facilities Planning Committee studying possible options for the district’s aging facilities for nearly two years. The committee boiled eight possible options for facility improvements down to two. After conducting a facility assessment last fall, the committee found a complete renovation of existing elementary and middle schools would cost $32 million—just $7.9 million less than the bond proposal. The committee decided the cost-effective approach was to replace them.
Proponents of the bond proposal say the new facilities are needed because:
The Elementary School is 50 years old and the Middle School is 64 years old. Both have heating systems which are outdated, inefficient and failing.
New buildings will provide facilities designed for “modern learning,” safer and more secure environments, energy efficiency, and long-term sustainability; improvements to athletic facilities are sorely needed, including tennis courts, restrooms, equipment storage, new six-lane track, bleacher safety railings, lighting and greater disabled accessibility; new facilities will greatly influence businesses decisions to invest in the district, providing a greater tax base and improved property values.
Opponents to the bond proposal cite the following concerns over what has been proposed: over half of parents surveyed by the district objected to mixing 7th and 8th grade students with high school students; the unknown impact and cost of the possible Village of Schoolcraft’s sewer project currently under discussion; properties of the out-of-district “school of choice” families, which comprise a small portion of the district’s enrollment, will not contribute to the tax levy, although those students do bring added state per-pupil money; the scope of the proposal and projects requested are too massive; athletics are already too much of a priority for the district; taxes are already too high.
Two surveys have been conducted by the district, one a survey of 372 Schoolcraft parents (Schoolcraft has 1,065 students) and a community survey of 200 of the district’s 3,200 voters conducted by Epic MRA from Lansing. Both surveys show strong support for Schoolcraft’s bond proposal. Information is available on the Schoolcraft Community School’s website schoolcraftschools.org under the main menu’s “facilities-study.”
“If voters approve the Bond Proposal, we will work with the community to develop a design that meets the district’s needs. It will likely take 12 months to finalize the design by working with school parents and community leaders. The facilities wouldn’t be built and ready for students until the fall of 2022,” said school board President Jennifer Gottschalk.