10 things to know about the Western School District’s proposed $46 million bond

PARMA, MI — Voters in the Western School District heading to the polls on May 3 will decide the fate of a proposed bond that would consolidate the district’s three elementary schools into one centralized building.

If approved, the school district would borrow $46 million toward the construction of a new 140,000 square foot Western Elementary School on 35 acres that the district owns east of Dearing Road Middle and High Schools.

From the background on what a proposed new elemental building would look like. how much it will cost voters, here are 10 things to know about the proposed bond.

A graphic displays when renovations were made to Warner Elementary in the Western School District, which was originally built in 1951.Image Provided | Western School District

Why is bond spending mostly focused on basic buildings?

The three elementary schools in the Western School District were each built over 60 years ago, with Warner Elementary completed in 1951, Parma Elementary in 1953, and Bean Elementary in 1960.

Each building has not undergone any kind of major renovation since 1996.

With the district focusing most of its construction efforts from its $24.5 million capital obligation in 2012 to its middle and high schools on improvements such as a new high school gymnasium and five high school classrooms , Superintendent Mike Smajda said it makes sense to address how the district houses its youngest students.

“We want to build a facility that can accommodate all grade levels as a cohort,” Smajda said. “From a teaching perspective, we can teach as a team, we can share resources, we can do more collaboration, so that really has a lot of positives when it comes to the educational side.

“But we also think that having it close to high school and middle school will make it much more convenient for our parents when it comes to dropping off and picking up kids and basically tracking kids. “

What would the deposit pay?

Although there are no schematic designs for the project yet, the new K-5 Elementary Building would include flexible, grade-specific learning spaces; separate bus stops; physical education fields and playgrounds and a security system and a camera/buzzer system.

“We think it’s going to be more energy efficient, we think it’s going to improve the efficiency of our operations, and we think it’s going to be good for teaching and learning for students and our community,” Smajda said. .

While the majority of bond funds would be used for the new elementary campus, additional bond funds could be allocated for new doors and windows in middle and high schools, in addition to upgrades to HVAC units, plumbing, and fixtures. parking lot repairs.

Break down costs

With all costs considered, a new elementary school would cost the district about $44.6 million. The rest of the bond funds would include $1.1 million for the demolition of the remaining elementary school buildings and $152,141 each for middle and high school improvements.

Material costs for the construction of the new primary would be approximately $36.9 million, with an additional 15% for architect and construction management and other costs.

Smadja said the intention to include improvements for middle and high schools in the language of the ballot would allow Western to divert any additional funds from elementary construction, if construction was under budget.

“If we’ve never referenced middle school and high school, and if we’re done with the elementary project and we have money left over, we can only use it on that elementary project,” said he declared.

A matter of space

The Western School District currently consists of six school buildings in approximately 75 square miles, with the district serving more than 2,700 students.

Functional capacity inside elementary buildings is 325 and is currently exceeded at Bean (407), Parma (375) and Warner (394).

What would happen to the current three elementary schools?

If approved, each of the elementary school’s three current buildings would be demolished. Demolition of the buildings would cost about $1.1 million, according to district figures.

What would a construction schedule look like?

Although the dates and order of the project could be revised depending on several factors, including market conditions, product availability and the school calendar, the initial design process for the new primary school would begin after the adoption of the bond and would take approximately eight months.

Construction would begin in 2023, with completion expected in fall 2025. Some smaller projects, like middle school and high school improvements, could begin before the end of 2022.

Western School District

A breakdown of the mile that the Western School District would take over the next 30 years if it continued to take 7 mills, which would result in a net increase of zero over what the district is currently taking to repay its bond of 2012.Image Provided | Western School District

What is a “zero mileage rate increase”?

The bond is a zero mile rate increase, which means that if approved, the district would continue to collect the 7 mills it currently collects with no increase for ratepayers, Smajda said.

By extending the 7 mils the district collects from the school loan program, Western would maintain the same debt for the next 30 years, while allowing it to borrow the $46 million now to pay for the elementary complex, Smajda said. .

“Right now, if we do nothing, in the next four to five years we will see a significant decrease in our debt mileage rate,” Smajda said. “So in anticipation of that rollout, we’re saying ‘let’s extend that’ (rate). We’re in a good position to say, ‘We don’t want to raise the tax rate. We just want to maintain what we’re already assessing.

The bonds would be issued for 30 years, assuming a rate of growth in assessed value of 3% and a bond interest rate of 3.50%.

How much would it cost taxpayers to pay off the mileage bond debt?

If voters approve the bond proposal, it is expected that the annual debt mileage required to repay the district’s outstanding and proposed bonds will remain at or below the current 7 mil bond mileage rate.

The estimated simple average annual mileage that should be required to repay this bond debt is 3.50 mills, or $3.50 on every $1,000 of taxable valuation.

New construction vs renovations

The district estimated that the major renovations needed to update the current elementary buildings would cost approximately $21.2 million.

When you’re dealing with older buildings, it limits the types of renovations you can do, aside from building a brand new building, Smajda said.

“It doesn’t change the outer shell of the building, it doesn’t change the inner workings of the building,” he said. “For example, we have narrow hallways and the fact that we have support staff working in closets that have been converted into mini offices. We’re not expanding anything or creating better workspaces.

Western Primary

A conceptual site plan for the proposed new Western Elementary School, which would include car and bus loops in addition to parking from Dearing Road.Image Provided | Western School District

Central Campus vs. Neighborhood Schools

The Western School District doesn’t have “neighborhood schools,” Smajda says, but rather “schools in neighborhoods.”

“Our children are no longer centrally located in each of our three elementary schools,” he said. “They’re literally spread all over the district and Jackson County.”

For example, out of 400 students attending an elementary school, about 30 students walk to school every day, Smajda said.

Traffic is also a major issue surrounding elemental buildings, Smajda said, and expansion of current buildings would be restrictive to help the district address issues such as traffic flow or improve operational efficiency by having routes shorter and direct buses.

“One of the things we know we have a problem with with three elemental buildings is access to the building – they’re very crowded,” he said. “One of the buildings literally has an entry and exit lane on a two-lane road. The other buildings have an access point, for lack of a better word.

“Traffic is literally blocked for three to four blocks. So to solve this problem, which hasn’t even been factored into these costs, we would have to acquire additional properties around these buildings, demolish or move the houses on these lots, and then build roads there.

Smajda added that Western wouldn’t have enough money to warrant the construction of three separate elemental buildings with a zero mileage rate increase, as would be the case with a centralized elemental building.


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