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Mendon, White Pigeon schools seek bond renewals in May election

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

MENDON — Two local school districts are seeking approval of bond renewals in an election next week.

On Tuesday, May 7, voters in the Mendon and White Pigeon school districts will be putting forward bond renewal requests before voters. Both renewals would not involve any tax rate increases, and would keep bond millage levels the same as they’ve been in previous years, while simultaneously helping the schools fund improvements to their facilities.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the following polling locations:

  • Mendon: Village Offices at 136 W. Main St.
  • White Pigeon Township: Township Hall at 30970 King Rd.

Here is more information on the bond renewal requests each district is seeking:

Mendon Community Schools

In Mendon Community Schools, the district is seeking a renewal of its 8-mill bond that has been in place for the past 10 years to help fund improvements at the elementary school, middle/high school, athletic fields and bus maintenance facility.

The bond renewal would be for 10 years at that 8-mill level, and would feature a multitude of facility upgrades that would take place over three phases, with bonds to be sold in November 2024, November 2026, and November 2028. The bond money to be borrowed, according to the ballot language, will not exceed $20,050,000 in the 10-year span.

Superintendent Leasa Griffith-Mathews said that when they first started envisioning the bond, a facility study indicated $32 million of facilities recommendations, but cut it back down to around $20 million in improvements.

“We didn’t want to have an increase for our people because we know times are tough, and it’s difficult, and people’s money isn’t going as far as it did before, so that was pretty much why we said, no, we didn’t want to try for an increase [in the bond] as well,” Griffith-Mathews said.

One of the biggest aspects of the bond proposal Griffith-Mathews pointed out is installing air conditioning in classrooms at all of the schools. She said that will be beneficial for students and the district as a whole.

“Last year, we had to take two full days off because of the heat index. Especially at the elementary, it gets so hot it’s almost sweltering, and to expect that they could stay in the afternoon is a no-brainer, and we had to use some time we banked for fog or ice delays right off the bat,” Griffith-Mathews said. “I think about the students and staff that have to work in the heat and try to teach and learn, and it doesn’t sound like much fun when it’s a 95-to-100-degree heat index in their classroom. That’s why the air conditioning, to us, is extremely important.”

For the elementary school, they’re planning on upgrading the fire alarm, clock and phone systems, electrical power upgrades, replacing classroom sinks, cabinets, flooring and furniture, creating a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) classroom, replacing aging lockers, replacing gymnasium flooring, renovating the library and computer lab into a multi-use media center, and constructing a secure entry.

While the elementary school does have a secure entryway at the moment, Griffith-Mathews said the setup for it would be improved with the bond funds.

“At the elementary, we have a secure entry, but you can’t see anybody except on the camera, you can’t see them as they come in. There’s a turn to get to the office, so that entry would be a bit different. It’d just be a little more secure for the office staff,” Griffith-Mathews said.

Over at the middle/high school, the district is planning on upgrading their phone system, replacing exterior windows, electrical power upgrades, constructing restrooms and a storage addition near the auxiliary gym, replacing drinking fountains and tile, improving parking lots, replacing some sidewalks, upgrading parking lot lighting, replacing lighting with LEDs, replacing lockers, and replacing portions of the roof.

The roof, Griffith-Mathews said, has been a problem for a while, and the district has already spent about $50,000 to address part of it, with the money coming from their previous bond funds. However, she estimated the rest of the roof will take a significant amount of money to complete the last “40 to 50 percent.”

“It’s quite expensive to replace the roof, like millions of dollars, so we’ve put in $50,000 to repair the portion that’s over the freshman wing and the band room, that area there, and over the offices as well,” Griffith-Mathews said. “We’ve started to invest money to hopefully free up a little more money from what we hope is a passed bond renewal so we can use that money to fix the roof, but also put it into other areas that need it.”

For athletics, the district plans on replacing interior and exterior scoreboards, replacing basketball hoops, upgrading football stadium lighting, reconstructing the baseball infield, installing irrigation systems at the softball and baseball fields, upgrading the concessions and fieldhouse, and replacing the public address and sound systems.

Elsewhere, the district plans to construct a new bus maintenance facility with space for bus maintenance and parts storage.

“At this time, we can pull buses in, but if we have to do repairs, we have to have half the bus hanging out because the bus garage isn’t deep enough for us to open the hood or anything,” Griffith-Mathews said. “That building, I believe was built in the 1950s, so that’ll be nice to have that updated for the transportation department.”

Overall, Griffith-Mathews said all of the improvements are necessary to improve not just extracurriculars, but the daily lives of students as a whole.

“Just to make sure we can keep up in the era we’re in where we’re fighting for every student we can get to come walk through these halls, for example, having a STEAM room at the elementary could draw people in. That’s what we’re looking for as we go and ask our people to approve a bond renewal for us,” Griffith-Mathews said.

White Pigeon Community Schools

White Pigeon Community Schools voters will be asked whether or not they want to renew their lowest-in-the-county bond for another five years.

The bond renewal would be for five years at the same 0.85 mills millage rate that has been in place since 2014, and like Mendon’s proposal, would feature improvements for district facilities, technology and transportation. The amount of money to be borrowed, according to the ballot language, would not exceed $1.93 million.

“What this bond will continue to allow us to do is maintain and upgrade our facilities as needed as opposed to not being able to do that and doing it out of the general fund,” Superintendent Shelly McBride said. “That is what we use our bonds and sinking funds to do, to offset that so we’re able to use the general fund.”

Some of the specific items McBride said this round of bond funds would be used for include updating bathrooms in classrooms at Central Elementary, replacing the flooring at Central Elementary, replacing lighting in classrooms district-wide, and create better accessibility at the district’s athletics facilities.

McBride said the district spent about a year doing a facilities assessment and came up with the items.

“As a group, what they came up with is that anything that dealt with safety and could also have maximum impact for students is something we wanted to look at,” McBride said.

“In the facilities assessments, you could see we needed the bathrooms addressed in the classrooms. I don’t know if they’re original, but they’re pretty darn close. As far as the flooring, looking at different options besides just a whole room of carpet in those elementary classrooms where they eat breakfast and do crafts and all sorts of fun things. Then, just looking at our buildings and knowing that being accessible isn’t really an option anymore. It’s something we need to look at.”

Bond funds could also be used for proactive improvements or addressing issues with things like heating, technology upgrades and buses, McBride said.

Having a no-tax rate increase renewal proposal like the district has, McBride said, is crucial for the community.

“I think anytime that you’re asking voters for new money, that’s a pretty substantial deal. When you’re asking voters to continue paying what they’re already paying, it definitely means something, but we’re showing we’re being respectful of our current economic situation, and we’re not going for anything that is above and beyond, really,” McBride said.

Overall, McBride said that voters should consider when they go to the ballot box that the district has been “responsible” with the money given since the bond was originally passed in 2014.

“We’ve never asked for more than what we need, and we currently aren’t. We’re talking 10 years alter, and we’re still asking for the same amount,” McBride said. “We have been very responsible with the monies the voters have given us, we’re an open book and we continue to be that. There is no change in the way these funds are going to be spent over the next five years with this proposal. It really is a continuation of everything since 2014.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or

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