Expected to submit preliminary bond proposal to State
ALMONT – The Almont high school media center was filled with concerned residents and staff Monday evening, many of whom had questions regarding a potential bond issue.
For months, the Board of Education has been meeting to hash out details on a possible bond issue for voters to consider.
In recent weeks, a detailed list of what should be part of the bond proposal and the associated projected costs was developed.
At one point, the board was told they were looking at a price tag of more than $60 million. That number has since been shaved down.
According to a construction management firm hired by the Board, they were looking at around $58 million just two weeks ago, after making adjustments to the proposal.
The board voted Monday evening to send their preliminary proposal to the State Treasury Department for a hearing in October.
School officials refused to disclose the total amount being requested and also refused to furnish a detailed list of what would appear on the ballot until after the hearing.
It’s believed the board narrowed the total cost further and may seek around $55 million.
Despite numerous requests from audience members during public comment time, School Board President Angela Edwards said, “We are not disclosing any of the details or the associated costs until we go to the State. If they approve what we submit, then we will share the information and begin our advertising campaign.”
The results of a recent audit on the district was also requested by a number of those attending Monday night’s meeting.
However, the board did not provide any financial information or detail on the financial status of the district.
Throughout the course of numerous meetings, the construction of a possible “fieldhouse” has been mentioned numerous times as the “obvious elephant in the room.”
Many questioned the need, while others asked about operational costs and how the building would be used.
The structure, at one point, was predicted to span 118,000 square feet. It was later trimmed down to around 85,000 square feet.
While the perception is the building would be one dimensional for athletics, it was pointed out the building would have several other uses including space for the school’s robotic team, music programs and other educational programs.
At recent meetings, board members did say, if approved, the building would house an indoor track, volleyball and basketball courts and other athletic venues.
“We don’t need to spend 50 or 60 million,” said retired faculty member Michelle Campbell. “How do you intend to pay for the operating costs of this building? I am not in favor of any kind of fieldhouse. You need to focus on the students and staff. This is maddening. I’m concerned for our budget.”
The district stands to reduce the tax load for district residents by eight mills in 2024 from previous bond funding. The new bond, if approved, would be less than the eight mills, according to school officials.
Throughout the evening, a common theme in the audience was the lack of communication by the board and lack of transparency of what was happening.
Several in the audience claimed they had no knowledge of what was being considered and had to come to a meeting to see for themselves.
Gail Brinker, a former business manager for the district stated, “a lot of us are in the dark as to what is going on, until tonight. The bond is so large. What does that do to our operating budget?”
David Bishop, a 1960 graduate of Almont, presented the board with a petition with 198 names on it, asking that the board take their time with a decision.
In part, the petition reads, “we the undersigned hereby request that the Board of Education proceed with deliberation and make sure that the proposal ultimately put forth reflects the sentiment of our community.” The petition also stated, the signees “fully support our students and their need for a good education, but not to the point of extravagance.”
Edwards accepted the petition from Bishop with no comment. The petitions were circulated and names collected over a three day span this past weekend.
Some audience members did speak in favor of the board’s actions and encouraged people to trust the board.
They also stated they supported the concept of a bond issue, including the fieldhouse.