Election Day for bond issue currently February 27
ALMONT — Officials with the Almont school district are expected to submit their bond issue information to the State Department of Treasury next week.
They have refused to make the information public until after the submission and its’ approval, if received.
The board and a bond steering committee have met numerous times over the last several months, compiling information from experts and listening to public comments, both for and against the issue.
School officials say the bond proposes including much-needed infrastructure replacements and improvements to the 35-year-old high school, 25-year-old Orchard Primary School, and 19-year-old middle school.
According to information about the bond on the school website, the high school has not had major renovations since its construction in 1988, including much of the same furniture from that date.
A majority of the furniture at that time was even carried over from the previous elementary school.
The proposal also includes parking lots and walkways being replaced, roofing updated, LED lighting updates, boilers replaced, drainage issues corrected, and many improvements and additions for safety and security.
Along with the information being sent to Lansing, according to the process of bringing the question to the voters, the district will have their bond attorney develop ballot language yet this month.
A prequalification meeting is scheduled for October 16 and the board of education will formally request a review of the bond application on October 23.
Other key dates include October 24 when the board would send a signed bond application to the bond attorney who would then forward it on to the State Dept. of Treasury the following day.
According to the bond schedule, there would be a board work session November 21, a call for election at the November 27 board meeting and then the district would file for election on December 5.
The bond issue as presented, and to be submitted next week, calls for election day to be held February 27.
Voters have asked at several meetings if taxes would be increased, should the bond issue be successful.
The short answer, according to the school district, is no, at least not due to the millage.
School officials say due to the dedication and hard work of many individuals, the current bond is targeted to be the first time the millage has been lowered since 1986.
The board of education is targeting lowering from 8.45 mils down to 7 mils if the district’s financial advisor and the Department of Treasury agree on the proposal.
A previous administration and former construction management firm were working with a bond amount of over $72 million.
However, since that time, the current board, along with Interim Supt. Kim VonHiltmayer, has worked to lower that number to a $65 million price tag leaving the millage above the 8.0 mils number.
Upon further investigation and additional facts on the inflexibility of funds for projects, many on the board were not satisfied with the new estimated costs.
A pause in planning allowed the board to take a step back and reconsider costs and have since come up with yet another new bond issue amount of somewhere around $58 million.
That number has not been officially approved by the board, but is believed to be close to the new projected amount.
School officials say the maximum at the current 8.45 mils would have been $72.4 million.
The district is targeting to be substantially lower than that, expecting around a $58 million overall bond.
According to information provided by the district, Almont has around 26% of students as a result of schools-of-choice.
Officials say the school-of-choice students bring in over $3.5m annually to the district and are a prominent reason why they are able to provide the academic standards they do.
Likewise, there are currently nearly 250 outbound school of choice students from Almont’s district that attend other districts.
Board members say they have made it a priority to closely evaluate the school-of-choice balance as demonstrated earlier this year when school-of-choice numbers were capped and closed at multiple grade levels.
Talk of a possible “fieldhouse”, also dubbed at many meetings as “the elephant in the room,” being constructed has caught a lot of attention from the public.
In the 2022 original proposal, the district says there was funding for a new competition gym at the high school due to the difficult task of scheduling space during the winter and early spring.
That project, when combined with other smaller projects within the gym area, equated to nearly $13 million.
The point was made that they could get 100% more space with a steel structure with a roughly 20% increase in investment.
The possible addition of a multipurpose facility can consist of a multi-use infield with a netting system and pre-lined for baseball, soccer, and football, allowing for eight groups or teams concurrent access.
The center also touts a fitness center and facilities for pickleball, 200m running and walking track, added gym space, robotics center with roll-up door, netting and pads for golf, drop-down batting cages, raised band director platform, raised seating/bleachers, volleyball and tennis courts, pole vault pits, long jump pits, high jump area, indoor concessions, locker/team rooms, large multipurpose/conference room and additional specialty classroom or team spaces such as wrestling, cheer, technology, and others.
The center will also be available for large events such as graduation, art shows, marching band events, etc.
District officials claim the differentiator with such a facility is the potential to generate revenues for the district through indoor track meets, soccer and softball tournaments, and rec league rentals as well as community use that will all assist in offsetting general fund costs.
The district has long struggled with tight general fund budgets and this is a forward-thinking option to offset that; targeting a self-sustaining facility that would not need to dip into the general fund for operating costs or upkeep.
Intensive research has been performed on these centers, and some of the board and administration have visited existing facilities and spoken to their staff.
Officials say the MHSAA is looking to adopt a sanctioned indoor track season for the winter sports schedule in the years to come.
Almont would be ahead of the curve on this and become the leader in the entire thumb area.
Almont has been maxed out at 8.45 mils since 1986 and the building of the current high school.
Two other district buildings followed in 1998 and 2004.
Board members say this is the first time since 1986 that the board of education has been targeting to lower the millage.
If the bond issue is successful, it would mean a lower tax base for school funding for all Almont residents, according to school officials.