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Schools offer pre-bond building tours

Schools offer pre-bond building tours

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Residents seeking more information about the Saugatuck Public Schools’ $35.6-million bond request for facilities improvement during the March 10 primary vote are invited to a series of building tours.

Guided sessions at Douglas Elementary and Saugatuck Middle/High School, both beginning in their main offices, will highlight proposed renovation areas as well as the most recently-completed building upgrades.

The 30- to 45-minute tours will allow for questions and answers along the way.

Middle/high school tours will be Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 5 p.m. before the girls basketball games; Thursday, Jan. 16, at 10 a.m. and Monday, Jan. 20, at 5:15 p.m. before the monthly school board meeting.

Elementary tours will be Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m.; Thursday, Jan. 16, at 9 a.m.; and Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 5:30 p.m.

The March 10 proposal, which would increase property taxes 1.6 mills, marks a third-time’s-a-charm, scaled-back effort for the district. Voters May 7 last year rejected a $39.95-million proposal by a narrow 1,044 “no” votes to 1,041 “yes.”

That in turn represented a 21-percent reduction from a $50.7-million bond request nixed by voters in May 2018, 1,005 to 791.

The March 2020 request will be 11-percent less than last May and 30-percent smaller than in 2018.

Proposed elementary school renovations are largely unchanged since last May due to high public support shown fro them in a Sept. 13-29 voters survey by Lansing independent research firm EPIC/MRA.

Middle/high school improvements proposed last May remain 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, district facilities committee members told school board meeting attendees Nov. 18, 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 have risen to $42.5 million. The good news? Debt millage dropped from 3.59 mills in July 2017 to 1.85 mills in July last year.

This allowed the district to drop the pr9polsed bond repayment term to 22 years, down from 25 years in past asks. If approved, the proposed 43.45-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.

Residents can find conceptual drawings, proposal details, frequently asked questions and a millage calculator on the district’s website at saugatuckpublicschools.com.