By Robert Tomlinson
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY — School bond proposals in St. Joseph County went 1-for-2 in Tuesday’s special elections, with Centreville Public Schools’ school bond being approved by voters, while Constantine Public Schools’ voters struck down its third proposal in the past three years.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Centreville’s bond proposal was approved with an unofficial vote tally of 465 “yes” votes (54.8 percent) to 383 “no” votes (45.2 percent), while Constantine’s bond proposal failed with 498 “no” votes (57.2 percent) to 373 “yes” votes (42.8 percent) between St. Joseph County and Cass County voters.
With the passage of Centreville’s bond, the district’s millage will increase by 0.8 mills from 6.2 mills to 7.0 mills, and would generate funds to improve school facilities and grounds, generating approximately $17.14 million over the bond’s 14 years. Work to be done will include safety and security upgrades at the junior/senior high school, HVAC upgrades at the junior/senior high school, and new additions to both the elementary school and junior/senior high school.
Centreville Superintendent Chad Brady thanked voters Tuesday night for passing the proposal.
“It’s been a 15-month project for us; we’ve been working on it ever since I came in as superintendent. I’m just really grateful and thankful for everyone that took part in helping us plan, prepare and promote the information about the bond proposal, from our administrative team to our teachers, our staff, our board of education and community members that took part in providing feedback and input to us,” Brady said. “Everyone that got out and voted today, we’re very grateful and thankful for all the efforts, and I’m proud and happy for our students.”
Brady said the bond’s passage will be a “big deal” for students throughout the district.
“It’s a proposal that’s going to impact every one of our kids in a positive way,” Brady said. “From a district perspective, it means a great deal to have the bond proposal approved by voters. I can’t say enough how grateful we are and how happy we are for our kids.”
Conversely, over in Constantine, the bond defeated by voters would have had no millage increase in the district, with the district refinancing its original bond from 2002, which falls off in 2029. The $3.9 million the bond was projected to generate would’ve gone strictly to roof repair of Constantine Middle School and Constantine High School. Any potential money left over from the project would have gone to fix the roof on the Constantine Tech buildings.
It is the third time in three years a school bond proposal failed in Constantine, each with different parameters. Of the three proposals, it was the one with the smallest and narrowest scope, and the margin of defeat was the lowest of the three – the November 2021 bond proposal was defeated with a 57.2 percent to 42.7 percent vote, while the May 2022 proposal was defeated 63 percent to 37 percent.
Constantine Superintendent Joe Holloway expressed his disappointment with the result Tuesday night.
“I really felt like this was an opportunity for us to gain the trust of the community, for us to follow through on what we had promised, which was use the money appropriately, and one of the things we continue to hear is about the past and how things have been done, and I really felt like this was an opportunity to gain the trust of the community,” Holloway said.
“The absolute most important part was this was an opportunity for us to check one of the biggest issues we have, one of our biggest needs, replacing the roof on a 20-year-old building without using money that’s meant for educating children. When we have to start using money for infrastructure that’s allocated for teaching and learning, that’s a really difficult thing for me to have to face tonight.”
Holloway said he would go back and “re-assess” what the district could do differently and how they could have more effectively communicated the proposal.
“We absolutely needed the roof, we absolutely could have – this could have been such a great thing for us in terms of being able to use these funds without having to dip into a fund equity that’s going to have a negative effect on the teaching and learning, and it’s going to have a negative effect on our students,” Holloway said.
Turnout between the two elections between Lockport Township, Nottawa Township, Sherman Township, Florence Township and Constantine Township was 28.6 percent.
For the Centreville proposal, Florence Township and Lockport Township had more “no” votes (46 and 70 respectively) than “yes” votes (26 and 57) on the proposal, while Nottawa Township and Sherman Township swung the vote with more “yes” votes (251 and 131 respectively) than “no” votes (161 and 106).
For the Constantine proposal, the margin was just six votes in Constantine Township, with 222 “yes” votes to 228 “no” votes. The margin was 18 votes in Florence Township, with 21 “yes” votes to 39 “no” votes. However, voters in Cass County’s Newberg Township, Porter Township and Mason Township were overwhelmingly against the proposal, combining for 130 “yes” votes to 231 “no” votes.
A third bond proposal from the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, which would increase their operating millage by 1.5 mills, was favored among the St. Joseph County contingent of its voting area in Park and Mendon townships, with 71 “yes” votes to 29 “no” votes. However, as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, with 9 percent of precincts reporting, the renewal was failing by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.