Fate of a $58 million bond issue in the taxpayer’s hands

 

ALMONT — Less than 85 days.

That is the amount of time Almont Community Schools bond proponents have to spread the word of their upcoming millage.

In an official press release sent out last week, the district announced they have officially set a date for the election.

The Almont school board has agreed to seek a $58 million bond proposal that district’s taxpayers will vote on in February.

School board officials have settled on requesting $58.4 million that if approved, would fund updates to its three school buildings so that the district can provide Almont students with an education in a state-of-the-art learning environment optimized to best serve the needs of different learners.

The bond is not expected to raise the current school millage rate.

Voters will go to the polls February 27 to determine the outcome of the bond issue.

Almont Community Schools Interim Superintendent Kimberly VonHiltmayer said of the upcoming bond issue, “We are committed to providing Almont area students the best education possible, and we need the community’s support to do that. The millage would allow us to make well-overdue upgrades to our buildings, as well as offer enhanced programming and technology so our students can remain competitive.”

According to information on the district’s bond information website, the millage would provide revenue for a variety of infrastructure and safety upgrades as well as enhanced instructional and recreational areas.

The millage, which is being reduced from the 2023 tax year amount of 8.45 mills to 7.0 mills, would apply to Almont High School (AHS), Almont Middle School (AMS) and Orchard Primary School (OPS).

School officials say the last bond proposal was considered by voters in 2002, 21 years ago.

Since that time, the district has not made a significant investment in Almont High School in over 35 years, according to the district’s website.

Furthermore, officials say Orchard Primary and Almont Middle School are 24 and 18 years old respectively, and much of their equipment, components, and materials are at or near the end of their useful life.

In explaining the need for the bond issue, through a prepared informational letter on the school website, officials say, “As in any home or building, eventually things like mechanical systems, roofs, flooring, and technology wear out and need to be replaced. In addition, learning environments have changed over the last 20 years. Not only do our buildings need additional measures to keep our children safe, but we also need to meet the learning needs of our students now and in the future.”

With increased competition with Schools of Choice, district officials are hoping the millage will assist in attracting new students to the district, retain its existing student enrollment along with bringing back students who currently use Schools of Choice to attend schools outside of the Almont district, further raising revenues for the district.

Almont currently has lost 250 students to neighboring schools.

“There is no reason Almont students should be seeking schools elsewhere,” said Angela Edwards, president of the ACS Board of Education.

She added, “Almont is exceptional in every area except our facilities. Our students deserve a quality education, and that necessitates an adequate learning environment. Our students and staff have consistently risen to the top of academics, athletics and the arts, it’s time for our facilities to match those profound achievements.”

The bond proposal will include:

• Building infrastructure improvements to include classroom air conditioning, roofing, parking lots, windows, updated electrical and plumbing, flooring and other systems.

• Safety and security improvements including updated fire alarm systems, emergency generators, safety film on glass, updated emergency/exit lighting, doors and locking systems and additional security cameras.

• Updated school facilities to support the educational program including new “Flexible” Pre-K and upper elementary classrooms, replacement of instructional technology, designated spaces for music and art, a STEAM classroom at OPS, a Maker Space at AMS and a STEM and robotics lab at AHS.

• Improved arts, athletics, and play areas that will include new kilns in art rooms, new band equipment including a band shell, new auditorium seating and curtains, JV baseball field, and tennis courts at AHS, synthetic turf on the AHS playing field and expanded bleachers.

• A multi-purpose center/fieldhouse that would be a multi-use, state-of-the-art athletic, recreation and art space.
The facility would accommodate a range of uses including football, soccer and baseball. Its design would allow up to eight groups or teams concurrent access, alleviating scheduling conflicts.

It would also be available for large events including graduations, art shows, marching bands and more, and provide Almont with a revenue-generating destination for athletics, recreation and the arts.

The multi-purpose building, regardless of what it is called, has been the hot bed of conversation at past board meetings.

Members of the public and staff have voiced their feelings, both pros and cons. Some have asked the board to consider splitting the issue and making the multi-purpose building a separate decision.

Prior to going to the State for final approval on the bond, the board made the decision to present a total package, including the multi-purpose building.