Clare County Review & Marion Press News

$66 million Clare bond issue on Clare ballot

Shown here is a drawing of the layout for the potential new Clare School campus.

By Pat Maurer

Clare School District voters will go to the polls May 2nd to vote on a bond proposal that would renovate most of the Clare school campus, build a new high school , renovate the present high school as a new middle school, modernize the learning environment, and improve infrastructure, safety and security.
Board and committee members have been working on the project since 2021, when discussions first started.
An information packet about the millage proposal said, “At 51, 53 and 101 years old, the Board has determined it is time to press forward for current and future Pioneers.” It continued, “We have a strong history of doing hard things. Despite the small geographical footprint of the district (only 125 square miles), Pioneers have repeatedly embraced our young people and the facilities they grow, learn, thrive and play in.”
Last November Superintendent James Walter II outlined the background for the bond project. He said, “For the past several years, the Board of Education has been preparing the District for a bond issue to support a new facility, helping to modernize the education Clare students receive.”
Voter approval of the May 2nd bond issue means the improvement of facilities to included a new high school adjacent to the current high school building, which would be renovated to serve as the Clare middle school. The present middle school, built in the 1920s, is costly to operate, repair and maintain. The building would be demolished and the Depression era murals in the auditorium would be moved to a new location in the school buildings.
At the board’s July meeting representatives from Wolgast Derek Rickett and Joe Powers and Steven H. Hoekzema of Tower Pinkster discussed options for a bond issue with the board.
Rickett said the project’s preliminary budget was estimated at $48 million plus sitework and the conversion of the present high school to a middle school, for a total of approximately $68 million (5.64 mills).
According to information from Superintendent Walter at that July meeting, “The potential impact on taxpayers can be reduced by .87 mills (from $68 million to $66.52 million) with the Board paying off a portion of previous debt through its general fund balance, which has been reserved for capital projects.  The Board has pursued this avenue because a new building would require less maintenance than the current middle school, freeing up those current maintenance funds to better serve the community by reducing the tax burden.”
In February, Walter told the board, “Construction costs for the school buildings project have exploded. I’m hearing about a 60 percent increase,” In answering a question at that meeting, Walter said because of the material cost increases, it (the millage cost) would be 8.54 mills for 30 years – including the current two mills for the last bond project.
According to the bond information, the estimated millage that will be levied with voter approval May 3nd, for the proposed bonds in 2023, under current law is 7.49 mills ($7.49 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation for a 5.64 mill net increase over the prior year’s levy.
The proposal would bond for $66.52 million at a term of 29 years and nine months.
The estimated simple average annual combined millage anticipated to be required to retire this bond debt is 8.44 mills ($8.44 on each $1,000 of taxable value).
The breakdown of the bond project’s estimated costs of $66,520,000 are:
*New High School (including Auditorium – $57,780,000;
*Site Development (prep, parking, traffic flow) – $3,500,000;
*Convert current High School to Middle School – $2,300,000;
*Mural removal/relocation & demolition of old Middle School – $1,920,000;
*Technology – $520,000;
*Furnishings – $500,000.
Benefits of the new campus would be more modern facilities; safety and security, energy savings, better and more accessible learning spaces; a healthier environment; new area construction jobs; and freeing up more funds for students and programs.
The first stages in the project are voter approval of the bond issue May 2nd, selling the bonds, developing the design and going out for bids.

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