Mrs. Brinker, a former Business Manager for Almont Community Schools, wrote a great letter to the Editor last week. This December’s school millage was 8.0, and without the proposed bond next year’s December school millage will be 3.30. A new millage of 7.0 is not a reduction, mills are scheduled to go down regardless. What also isn’t a reduction is our taxes. The Board of Education is using a strategy wherein they actually borrow more mills than those levied on the taxpayers. This is where the school borrows the additional mills that they actually need from the School Bond Loan Fund. This strategy will actually cost the district $7.4 million in additional interest. The current $58.4 million dollar proposed bond will cost the community $110,437,991. This includes $44,606,275 in bond interest and $7,431,716 in School Bond Loan Fund interest. Spending an additional $7.4 million so you can say you expect to lower mills is fiscally irresponsible. Our total proposed payments add up to $122,157,138 because, as Mrs. Brinker mentioned, the district still owes over $12,000,000 on the 2002 $22 million dollar bond. If the tax base grows at the projected rate this bond may be paid off in 2048.
Could the District borrow less? Yes they could. Borrowing less and spending what they can afford would no doubt save at least $7.4 million dollars. The current bond, however, includes a field house with a price tag of at least $20,000,000. The documents that have been submitted to the state show the field house with a cost of $16,800,000, the proposed solar panels at $2,250,000, an expanded parking lot at $400,000 in addition to design and site survey costs that have yet to be determined. We know that this 80,000 square foot field house will hold an indoor track as well as a less than regulation size football field. It has also been stated that it will have a softball field, volleyball courts, basketball courts, a band room, STEAM, STEM, and ROBOTICS. The actual design, however, has not been done. Everyone of these above items can be found elsewhere on the Almont Schools campus. If fact many of these items can be found elsewhere in the bond.
The proposed bond is filled with athletic improvements. Turf for our football field, a new redesigned track, a huge addition to the concession stand, repaired tennis courts, pressboard and dugout improvements at soccer and softball fields, expanded bleachers in the football stadium, relocating the football scoreboard, new athletic equipment, and a walkway around the track among other improvements are all part of this bond.
This bond also includes a flex addition of 8 rooms connecting the Middle School and Orchard Primary, the addition of air conditioning through the campus, new furniture, redesigned media centers, mechanical upgrades, new surfaces on our parking lots and walkways as well as expanded parking spaces at the Orchard Primary. The list goes on. All these items, including the athletic upgrades are needed.
The field house and the legacy costs that it will bring are the controversy in this bond. In addition to the $20 plus million dollar initial cost of the structure, it will require a full time staff, maintenance and custodial personnel, heating, cooling, water, insurance, maintenance/ repair costs, security and safety measures among the other costs of running a business, because that is what this would have to be–a business. Keep in mind, the mission of a school is first and foremost to educate students. Risking the limited funds that a school has, on the addition of a field house, is fiscally irresponsible plain and simple.
As Mrs. Brinker stated, Almont Community Schools has cut staff to the bare minimum over the years. They have outsourced just about every employee they legally can and cut benefits to many of those that have stayed (secretaries and paraprofessionals). These are our neighbors and community members that were let go, many losing their pensions–never to be hired back by Almont Schools because the school could not and can not afford it. Yet here we are debating and considering building a $20 million dollar plus unnecessary and unsustainable field house.
Do not be swayed by the promise that this building may or could possibly be revenue generating. They will be lucky to cover the ever increasing utility costs, much less the other costs of running a building this size. How long would it take to recoup the $20 million dollar initial investment?
The school board needs to consider the needs of all the students and community members that it serves. Voting no will send them back to the drawing board to not only re-look at the needs of the district but consider more creative and fiscally responsible ways to finance these needs. Voting NO is not saying no to education it is preserving education.
— Michelle Campbell
Almont Community Schools Administrative
Assistant to the Superintendent