SJ school district seeks $8.4 million bond

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — The St. Joseph school board will ask voters in May to approve a series bond raising more than $8 million over 12 years, in what school officials are describing as a way to sustain gains from the 2010 bond election.

Superintendent Ann Cardon said money raised from the sale of bonds would be used to support upgrades in technology, security, transportation and building improvements.

The district passed a $38 million, 25-year bond issue in May 2010, which led to the extensive renovation of several school buildings, improved security and an updated technology infrastructure.

“When we passed the bond in 2010, part of the discussion was the sustainability plan,” Cardon told the board. “We all know how quickly technology becomes outdated. A large portion of that bond went toward building that infrastructure and getting our labs up and running. Well, they’re six years old now.”

The ballot language, written by district’s attorneys, was adopted by the board at Monday night’s meeting. District voters will head to polls May 3 to decide the issue.

The estimated millage that would be levied for the proposed bond in 2016 is 0.35 mills, or 35 cents, for each $1,000 of taxable property value.

Cardon told board members a home assessed at $100,000 – valued at $200,000 – would cost the homeowner $35 per year.

Should the proposal pass, the district would be issued $2.45 million in 2016, $3.05 million in 2020 and $2.89 million in 2024. The total amount raised by the bond sale over the 12 years would not exceed $8.4 million.

“It would be in a series of three bonds,” Cardon said. “The beauty of this plan is we will elect for it once in May … it really sustains the district until almost 2030.”

Steve Burdick, director of technology design for Secant Technologies in Kalamazoo, said he has been advocating for more technology and came to the St. Joseph school district with the idea of a series bond.

Burdick told the board this wouldn’t be like a traditional bond, in the sense of a normal payment process.

“Because we are doing three series, each series would be just about paid off before the next series is levied off,” Burdick said. “The treasurey is very careful about that because of the type of equipment that we’re buying. The impact on millage is pretty much a steady 0.35 mills throughout the life of the binding cycle. This is a unique opportunity for the district to take care of kids who aren’t in school today.”

Cardon said the proposal, if approved, would take stress off the general fund and allow the district to spend more funds on student programs.

Cardon said the proposal would also boslter the district’s commitment to transportation.

“We’ve talked about how old our bus fleet is and that the district should be purchasing a bus every year,” she said. “They run about $100,000. I’ve been here four years and we’ve bought one bus.”

The resolution to call for the election was approved by the five members present. President Amy Porritt-Peirce and Trustee Corey Carolla were absent.

The board will host public meetings to share details of their plan. Meeting dates and times will be announced in the next few weeks. The board will hold it’s next study session at 6 p.m. on March 7 at the Brown Elementary School.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 9, 2016)

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