ST. CLAIR SHORES – On the May 3 ballot, Lake Shore Public Schools will ask voters to approve a proposed $66.7 million bond to improve teaching spaces, address infrastructure needs and put update and improve community spaces.
“It’s a really good time, financially, with low interest rates. It’s really going to allow us to do more than if we looked ahead,” Superintendent Joseph DiPonio said.
Administrative staff, as well as architectural and construction specialists, assessed buildings and facilities at Lake Shore. Community and staff members then participated in focus groups to discuss needs and review proposed projects, and staff members were interviewed. Based on this information, the district identified four main areas that needed work: infrastructure construction, teaching spaces, community spaces, and activity and play areas. The bond project has been reviewed and approved by the Michigan Treasury Department.
A key part of the plan is the construction of an early years center in the current administration building on Harper Avenue, as well as a community center and adult education spaces to consolidate programming under one roof, said DiPonio.
“Using some of the existing structures that exist there…we wouldn’t have to build from scratch,” he said.
It will also give the district an opportunity to redesign the adjoining Rodgers Elementary School, which was a junior high school before it was used as an elementary school.
DiPonio said the goal of adding adult and community education facilities and the early years center to the same building as the administration and council offices was for Rodgers Elementary to become “its own separate facility.” , where “space that was truly designed for secondary learning would be repurposed and reimagined in an elementary setting.
The building is currently very sprawling, so the existing space will be aligned with the Early Years and Community Center, while additional spaces will be added as part of the primary school redevelopment.
“We know that our staff will also work best in close proximity to each other,” he added.
The district also plans to expand walking paths and improve school and community playgrounds, and it plans to reimagine “what our existing yards look like and how to reuse outdoor space” into outdoor environments. outdoor learning, DiPonio said.
Other planned exterior improvements include a new high school home softball field and a new baseball diamond that would be built east of Kennedy Middle School, as well as a college field for soccer, lacrosse, and soccer at Kennedy.
Infrastructure improvements are also planned in other buildings in the district.
“We have roofing needs, paving needs; we look at all flooring, doors, hardware, energy efficient lighting, parking improvements and traffic flow. Boilers that will need to be replaced,” DiPonio said. “There is a lot of infrastructure that will have to be tackled in the years to come. Without a connection, it makes things difficult.
Replacement furniture and upgrades in all classrooms will make them more flexible, and enhanced security measures will be installed across the district, including new secure entrances to high school and Violet Elementary. The district wants to redesign the high school entrance off 13 Mile Road and create a new traffic pattern there and at Violet Elementary.
Pete Basile, chief financial officer of Lake Shore Public Schools, said the district had an existing debt mileage rate of 7 mils from the 2016 bond issue.
“The 2016 debt was actually going to decline completely in 2045, but it was going to start to gradually decline in 2026,” he explained. If the May 3 bond issue is approved by voters, instead of falling, “the 7 mills will continue to operate until 2050”.
That’s why the district says the $66.7 million bond issue won’t result in a tax increase for residents.
Non-family properties pay 18 mills for school operation, but all properties in the district pay all 7 mills for debt service.
Basile said that with interest rates set to rise over the next year, now is the time to seek voter approval for the money, since the district will get more for its money with a lower rate. lower interest.
“If we were to wait a year or two, (we) might get $56.7 million because we (would) have to pay more interest than principal payments,” he said. “We are currently at historically low interest rates, which should end in the next few months.”
The district will divide the bonds into three sets of equal amounts to be distributed over the next two years, Basile said.
“Real rate increases probably won’t happen until a year or two after the bond is issued,” he said. “Even if interest rates go up, if we have to borrow to pay principal (and) interest, we have a school bond loan fund to protect us so we don’t have to dip into our general fund. “
If the bond proposal is approved by voters, some work could begin as early as summer and fall 2022, such as improving playgrounds and sports fields. That being said, “we don’t take anything for granted and we don’t assume anything,” DiPonio said. He hopes voters will recognize the projects as improvements for the entire Lake Shore community.
“I think what we have here is something that is really valuable to everyone and ultimately it provides our students with world-class facilities,” he said. “The hallmark of this is the development of the early childhood center and the combination of all this in one place.”
More information on the bonds is available at http://lakeshoreschools.org/election_info_2022.