SL district studies bond potential

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:08 PM

District officials are interviewing firms to help them gauge the scope of a potential bond proposal to put before voters. The bond would fund several projects.

“We’re not committing to do anything at this point,” Superintendent Dennis Furton said.

The proposal could be up for a vote as early as November. Before then, Furton said they have a lot of talking and listening to do.

Last week, district officials interviewed architectural firms. School board President Paul Aldridge said the next step is to finalize an agreement with an architectural firm, which they are in the process of doing now.

Throughout the next month, pre-bond planning and community engagement will take shape, Aldridge said.

“Community input will be crucial as the district seeks to identify the scope of our bond proposal,” he said.

This past fall, Spring Lake Public Schools had a facility analysis look at the entire district. It identified needs from heating systems, transportation, roofing, security and space — because the district is at capacity, officials said.

Furton said they won’t tackle everything addressed in the facility analysis, but they will identify the priorities and work from there.

The analysis reported the middle school and intermediate school building needs a new boiler and heating system, while the newer high school needs enhanced or improved items.

Both Holmes and Jeffers elementary schools are older buildings and would require more work — "a significant investment,” Furton said.

Furton said they don’t yet know the scope of the project and haven’t decided exactly what would be addressed with a bond. He said it’s complex because it’s about taxes and the future of the district.

The district's debt tax rate is currently at 6.43 mills. Furton said the additional bond would qualify the district for the state’s school bond loan fund.

The state fund is available for infrastructure and capital needs for school districts with a minimum of 7 debt mills. It gives districts the opportunity to smooth their debt repayment over a longer period of time.

Furton explained the fund means taxpayers won’t see a large hike, although it means the district could be paying money back for several extra years.

Furton said they are still months away from knowing the full scope of the project.

“We’re just taking it one small step at a time,” he said.

Spring Lake schools received some renovations from a 2006 bond.

In 2007, four classrooms were added to Holmes Elementary School. Jeffers Elementary School received renovations in the main office, teacher workroom and media center.

At that time, the aquatic center was built at the high school, which also added three classrooms. A science room was also added to the intermediate and middle school building.

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