2018-09-13 / Front Page

First school bond forum cordial

810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK – The first town hall meeting on the $48 million school bond proposal took place last week and it turned out to be a pretty low-key event as far as millage meetings go.

About 50 people gathered in the gym at Elms Road Elementary School on Thursday. Many in attendance are employees of the Swartz Creek Community Schools.

A few people asked questions about things like the bond’s potential effect on property values, and what happens when it expires in 28 years and the 28-year-old capital improvements need improving again.

No one raised a voice, or pointed a finger, or leveled an accusation as often occurs when the conversation turns to public funding, particularly in a community where some resentment still lingers in the years since the district made two large and controversial investments.

Superintendent Ben Mainka said school officials and community members who favor the millage are keenly aware of the hurdles they may face, and they’re diligently working to “mend fences” and earn the public’s trust.

That can be accomplished through rigorous transparency, keeping the promises made to taxpayers, and demonstrating that the district’s decision-makers are good stewards of public funds, he said.

“We are going to stick to what we say we’re going to do,” Mainka said. “We want the community to know exactly what they’re getting and what they’re approving or not approving.”

That includes providing a three-year timeline for the projects the 3.9 mils will fund. If voters approve the request in the Nov. 6 election, work will begin in earnest, with construction starting in the spring.

“Safety and security are the absolute top priority,” said Mainka. “It is a huge, huge component of this project.”

Thirty-nine percent of the funds will go toward safety and security, including cameras, double-locking entrances and technology that will allow all classrooms to be locked down at once with the push of one button.

It also includes some driveway and parking lot redesigns.

“We’ve had some close calls,” said Mainka. “It’s a tumultuous situation (at some schools).”

Repairs, upgrades, code compliance and energy efficiency will account for another 27 percent. Projects include installing bathrooms and entrances that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act rules, roof repairs, air conditioning and upgrades to meeting and storage spaces.

“Is air conditioning essential?” Mainka asked. “No. Is it better? Yes, and it’s something people look at when deciding where to send their children.”

Twenty-three percent will go toward new science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) innovation spaces at all schools, computers, wireless technology and server upgrades.

“This is something we feel is very important,” Mainka said. “We want to give our high school students the ability to walk right into technical careers, to compete with students from other schools.”

It also includes new furniture.

“If you’re a Swartz Creek graduate and your grandchildren go to school here, chances are they’re sitting in the same desks you were,” he said.

The remaining 11 percent will pay for improvements to athletic facilities.

A visual breakdown of how district officials will use the funds is available on the bond campaign website www.swartzcreekbond2018.com. The website also contains detailed information about proposed projects and links to voter registration information, as well as links to the Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SWARTZCREEKBOND2018/), Twitter (@SCCSbond2018), Instagram (swartzcreekbond2018) and YouTube accounts.

Visitors to the website also will find a calculator to aid in determining what the millage will cost owners of individual properties.

A copy of the ballot language and answers to frequently asked questions are posted, as well.

Upcoming town hall meetings are scheduled for Sept. 26, at Dieck Elementary; Oct. 8, at Gaines Elementary; Oct. 25 at Morrish Elementary; and Nov. 5 at Syring Elementary. All forums begin at 6:30 p.m.

If the millage passes, it will be the first time in 48 years that Swartz Creek school district voters have supported a bond. Voters have supported renewals of the 1.9-mil sinking fund which pays for building maintenance and upkeep.

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