Benzie Central Schools Asking Voters to Pass Bond for New Elementary, District Upgrades

This May, the Benzie Central school district will ask voters for money to build a new school and upgrade infrastructure.

Three of the district’s buildings are at least 50 years old and they need some modernizing.

The biggest project – a $19.75 million brand new K-5 elementary school on the middle and high school campus. The plan also includes nearly five million dollars towards improving Lake Ann and Betsie Valley Elementary schools.

They’re also slated to put $19.1 million towards roof replacement, gym expansion and renovation, science lab improvements, parking lot resurfacing, athletic field cleanups and infrastructure tune-ups at the middle and high school. Plus, they want a new bus garage and money to replace their fleet over the next decade.

All that expansion, construction and work come with a hefty price tag.

They’re asking voters to decide on a bond that will help them pay for $47 million in school improvements.

While it sounds like a lot, it will cost the average Benzie County homeowner with a $100,000 home just $2.08 more per month.

The county is already paying off a school bond from the 1990’s and a sinking fund bond from 2017. Those two bonds cost them 2.5 mills.

The school district wants to bump up that cost to a nice round 3 mills to pay for the upgrades to bring the school buildings into this millennium.

The district hosted a community forum Tuesday night to help voters understand what they will be paying for.

District superintendent Matt Olson says the upgrades are necessary and the board is being conservative and making necessary changes and expenditures.

Three of the schools are at least 50 years old and have serious aging problems and Olson wants to upgrade the infrastructure before it fails.

“Lots has changed from the 1960s to 2019, so we have some serious catching up to do,” said Olson. “When we have the opportunity to explain it to people they tend to get it this is something that’s a need.”

The issue will be on the ballot in May.