By Pat Maurer
There was a small show of support for a new bond issue for Clare Schools July 7.
Thirty-two, including school staff, attended a special meeting in the Clare High School Cafeteria that evening to talk about considering a bond issue for Clare Schools.
Superintendent Doniel Pummell outlined the possibilities at the meeting, then attendees formed smaller groups to discuss whether the Board of Education should seek a bond issue only to address building and transportation needs or go further and build either a new Middle School or a new High School.
At their last meeting the Board of Education gave the Superintendent a directive to conduct public meetings to see if there was community support for a bond issue and what community members – and voters – would support.
An earlier estimate from an audit of the district facilities just to bring the buildings up to code and buy four busses was $5 million “It has been 14 years since additions to the school buildings were finished,” Pummell said. “There have been no projects since then. It’s my responsibility to share the needs we have and determine what scope of a project would get support.”
“We have to do something,” Pummell told the group. “These issues won’t go away and we will have to meet those costs. That could mean we will have less for student programs. It could mean we have to go to larger classes and a reduced staff.”
An audit of the oldest district building, the 1930s Middle School, is the district’s top priority. The building has a need for a new heating and ventilation system; ADA compliant restrooms; upgrading power; addressing masonry issues, leaky windows and a deteriorating ramp at the entrance; repair of casework, the limestone veneer and soffits; metal doors insulation and lighting issues; and repair or replacing the roof.
Although two new busses were purchased last year and a used bus is being purchased this year, the fleet is still aging. During inspection last year, verbal warnings were issued on four busses, three of those regular route busses. “If those three are “red-tagged” this year, we will be in major trouble,” Pummell reported. The average age of the fleet is nearly 12 years and the average mileage on the busses is more than 133,000 miles. The fleet drives nearly 122,000 miles each year, with 90,000 miles on routes. It would cost an estimated $350,000 for four new busses.
Clare’s Primary repairs needed are estimated at $500,000, Pummell said. Repairs for that building include exterior entry steps and wall; playground equipment that is not up to code; other item not up to code; no barrier free bathrooms; needed brick and soffit repair; replacing rusting exterior doors; and casework and sinks that are not barrier free.
Clare High School, she reported is in the best shape with needed work estimated at $160,000. Some high school windows and some metal fascia needs replacing and some emergency lighting upgrades are needed.
Brookwood Athletic Field needs handicap bleachers on the home side, drainage repair and additional parking. The estimated cost for an ADA ramp and handicap bleachers on the home side are $32,000 and $350,000 respectively. No estimates have been made yet for developing additional parking there.
A fundraising group has also been formed to build a new performing arts center, estimated to cost from $7 to $10 million. Pummell said part of the middle school, the auditorium, could be used as an entrance to a new facility.
After meeting in small groups some of the audience said that the middle school is a landmark and the community would not support demolishing it and another was that a $5 million bond proposal would be all the community would support.
One proposal which would cost $39 million, would be to build a new high school and upgrade the present high school for use as a middle school; repair the primary school; purchase busses and build a new performing arts center.
A second proposal costing a total of $24 million, would build a new middle school, repair the primary and high school; purchase busses and build a new performing arts center.
A third scenario, totaling $16 million would build a new middle school, repair the primary and high schools, purchase busses and renovate the present auditorium.
Repairs and code upgrades only to the buildings and new busses would cost $5 million.
Funding was also discussed. Pummell said the best way to generate revenue with a bond was to extend and add to the district’s current levy. $17 million could be raised by adding 3.45 mills for 20 years, costing taxpayers an additional $172.69 a year based on a $50,000 taxable value of property; and $28 million could be raised by adding 3.5 mills for a 30 year period costing taxpayers an additional $175 per year based on a $50,000 taxable value of their property.
A one mill extension for 20 years would raise approximately $6,850,000 for the district or extending the current debt of 3.5 mills for nine years would raise about $1.5 million.
Following the meeting Pummell said she would take the group’s ideas and responses back to the board at the next meeting.
About 32 people were in attendance at the public meeting to discuss a possible bond issue for Clare Schools.