Almont board planning bond vote in August

 

ALMONT — Following two public meetings held by Almont schools Superintendent Kimberly VonHiltmayer in recent weeks, the Almont school board met Monday evening to discuss their options in regards to the recently failed $58.4 million bond issue.

Supt. Kimberly VonHiltmayer

VonHiltmayer met with Almont residents twice, in an effort to gather feedback on what might be done differently, should the board decide to try again for some type of bond issue.

The February bond issue ($58.4 million) that failed by a wide margin caused some animosity and hard feelings between opposing sides in the weeks leading up to the vote February 27.

At the heart of the controversy was construction of a new proposed $16 million field house, if the bond had been successful.

Board members have said even if a field house was not built, there are still needs that have to be addressed.

“Approximately. 40 community members and K-12 staff attended this meeting (March 20)” VonHiltmayer stated last month. “The main purpose of the meeting was to solicit community feedback on a revised bond worklist. The worklist has now been divided into three categories: Requirements, Needs, and Wants.”

VonHiltmayer expressed her thanks to those who have invested countless hours preparing documents and information.

“I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Christian Contarino (our CM/Project Manager) and his team for working tirelessly on this revised worklist,” VonHiltmayer said.

The requirements, according to the superintendent, are listed to address the district’s urgent needs including roofing, HVAC, safety features, pavement, deteriorating athletic facilities such as bleachers along with deteriorating surfaces on the track and tennis courts.

Superintendent VonHiltmayer acknowledged the total amount could be around half the amount of the February millage question.

“It is important to note that the community is voicing they are much more comfortable with a $25-29 million bond (approximately), rather than the previous bond,” she said.

The Superintendent felt it was advantageous to have K-12 staff members present at the meeting, as they could speak to specific building issues and needs.

VonHiltmayer said perhaps the biggest challenge for the district is, “making sure the larger community (community members who may not have children or grandchildren in the schools anymore) understands the genuine need to take care of our district’s facilities NOW to minimize a significant impact on the taxpayer’s wallet down the road.”

She noted, “I would like to thank everyone who has attended the ACS Post Bond Community Forums over the past weeks (two meetings with approximately 100 people total in attendance).” VonHiltmayer said. “There is a collective commitment to do what is right to ensure our school community proceeds responsibly for the sake of our students and staff for years to come.”

Monday evening, after discussing items on a bond work sheet, the board agreed to continue to move forward with a second attempt for a bond issue, going to the voters in early August.

VonHiltmayer said the expected amount of the bond, “should be less than $30 million when we have everything finalized. That’s what we are hoping for.”

Within the next few days, Almont officials will be fine tuning a proposal that will have at least two questions on the ballot and possibly a third.

In the first segment of the bond, a total of just under $23 million would be utilized, if approved by voters, allowing for improvements to Orchard Primary ($1.13 million), the Middle School ($1.26 million) and the high school ($14.57 million).

The second proposal could be the Orchard Primary and Middle School connector that potentially could add classroom space.

A third proposal, if allowed, would be a question to voters to have their say on air conditioning and a turf athletic field.

District officials are checking with the State Election Bureau to see if a third question is allowed on the ballot.

If not, the air conditioning for Orchard Primary and the Middle School, along with the turf athletic field, would be put on the second proposal along with the classroom connection between the two lower level facilities.

It was stated both the B and C (if allowed) proposals would be contingent on the successful outcome for Proposal A.

District residents Paul Bowman and Dennis Campbell both spoke to the board during public comment and while agreeing with the split ballot concept, they both said it could “be a tough sell” voting in August as opposed to waiting until November.

VonHiltmayer, who explained waiting until November would most likely drive up costs and the beginning of construction, said the district has a meeting with the State Treasury on April 10 to provide final amounts.

School officials believe the proposed bond issue would be around five mills for between 15 to 17 years.