It may be surprising but an election is coming up in less than a month and several local school districts are banking on support from their community. When an election day approaches without any statewide races, it can tend to sneak up on voters and they miss an important question for the community. That issue is usually a bond proposal for a small town or school district.
That’s what we will see across the area on August 8.
“Any time that we can put money into our facilities, buses, and other things that we use on a daily basis, it’s important to do,” said Bill Chillman, superintendent of Beal City Schools.
In Michigan, schools can’t use per-pupil funding on infrastructure. If a district wants something built, remodeled or updated, it has to come from a millage.
When to ask for that bond can be a bit of a strategy. Do you ask for it in a statewide packed election when turnout will be highest? Or ask in May or August when there will be fewer voters but more dedicated?
Next month voters will determine the fate of bonds in DeTour, Pellston, Morley-Stanwood, Baldwin, Buckley and Beal City.
Beal City chose August simply for the timing.
“We saw that our debt was being paid off quicker, because our taxable value had increased,” said Chillman. “At that point we knew we probably had to do something.”
Their previous millage is being paid off early due to the increase in value. The district has 86 wind turbines in the area, each of those are essentially a small business and taxed like it.
They wanted to capture that new tax base before the end of the year.
“We got that package down to about $11 million,” said Chillman. “So it’s a 12 year bond, generating $11 million with no increase to our taxpayers.”
The plan will build three new classrooms, buy three new buses, renovate their stage and put in air conditioning, among the long list. Chillman said these are all crucial improvements to better the day-to-day for students which they think will appeal to voters.
“I think that’s part of the deal,” said Chillman. “Getting a lot of input upfront as you’re developing your plan which I think we’ve done.”