By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Public Schools facilities committee has recommended the district return to voters in March 2020 seeking a $35.6-million bond for facilities improvements.
The proposal — unveiled to the public at Monday night’s school board meeting and available for review online at saugatuckpublicschools.com — would increase property taxes 1.6 mills.
The reduced ask marks a third time’s a charm effort for the district. Voters May 7 rejected a $39.95-million proposal by a narrow 1,044 “no” votes to 1,041 “yes.”
That it turn represented a 21-percent scale-back from a $50.7-million bond request nixed by voters in May 2018, 1,005 to 791.
The third proposal would be 11-percent les than last May and 30-percent smaller than in 2018.
Proposed Douglas Elementary School renovations (see graphic) are largely unchanged since last May, due to high public support for them shown in a Sept. 13-29 voter survey by Lansing independent research firm EPIC/MRA.
Saugatuck Middle/High School (see graphic also) remains in the current footprint, except for a new band room and secure entrance/offices, based also on survey findings.
SPS, concerned about aging buildings and a challenging future, conducted a facilities study in 2012 and has followed up since then.
Over the past 3.5 years, the committee told citizens at Monday’s meeting, more than 1,000 parents, community members, school personnel and students have provided input into its planning effort via a Human Centered Design Process, two community surveys, 12 open forums, multiple board workshops and meetings, plus innumerable conferences between parties.
In the meantime, estimated costs of last May’s $39.95-million proposal to $42.5 million. Debt millage dropped from 3.59 mills in July 2017 to 1.85 mills in July this year.
This has allowed the committee to drop the proposed bond repayment term to 22 years, down from 25 years in past asks. If approved, the proposed 3.45-mill debt millage would still be below the 3.59 mills in May 2018.
For a home with a $200,000 market value and taxable value half that, 1.6 mills would amount to $160 more in taxes each year. For a $400,000 market value and $200,000 taxable value residence, the yearly increase would be $320.
This year’s expanded facilities committee included
securities portfolio manager Mike VanMeter, developer Kris Depree, local business owner Elizabeth Estes, engineer and infrastructure project manager Dana Burd, parent Elizabeth TerHaar, high school teachers Mike Shaw and Kim Losik, DES teacher and parent Suzanne Bullinger, DES principal and parent Michaelle Gust, middle/high school principal Mark Neidlinger, school board member and parent Eric Birkholtz and superintendent/grandparent Tim Travis.
For more information, visit the above school website or call (269) 857-1444.