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| 3 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com |

The Chelsea School District will know in the next few weeks if it can move forward on some important plans to improve its learning environments and buildings.

CSD’s bond election is set for Nov. 5, and it’s sure that some absentee ballots are already in or planned to be sent in, but there’s still many in the community anticipating getting out and voting at their local precinct.

All the while, many are working hard up to the last minute to make sure the community understands what it’s voting on.

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Including CSD Superintendent Julie Helber, who recently held a Bonding Q and A at the Chelsea District Library.

Helber said they’ve fielded different questions about the bond with one being phone calls regarding the ballot language.

The ballot proposal has a lot in a short space, so it might be a challenge to fully understand.

A bond proposal is how a public school district asks its community for authorization to borrow money to pay for capital expenditures.

Basically, the Chelsea School District is seeking a bond for $81,000,000

The purpose of the bond is to address things such as deferred maintenance, renovations to buildings and grounds to support modern learning, additions, student safety, sanitation, building access, athletic improvements and parking.

According to CSD, the current tax rate is 7 mills. 

It would drop to 6.4 mills in 2020, so CSD is asking for .6 mills to keep the tax rate at 7 mills for a tax rate extension. 3.07 mills is the average tax rate the resident is projected to pay over 25 years of the retirement of the bond.

One part of the proposal’s wording that can be confusing is: The school district expects to borrow from the State School Bond Qualification and Loan Program to pay debt service on these bonds. The estimated total principal amount of that borrowing is $0.00 and the estimated total interest to be paid thereon is $38,182. The estimated duration of the millage levy associated with that borrowing is two (2) years and the estimated computed millage rate for such levy is 7.0 mills. The estimated computed millage rate may change based on changes in certain circumstances.

As an interpretation, CSD said the $38,182 is an estimate of additional interest to be paid on the state loan program that the school district participates in to minimize the tax rate it pay on its bond issues. 7 mills is the current tax rate. This bond proposal will require the taxpayers to continue to pay 7 mills for two more years after which the tax rate is expected to drop.

If you have a taxable value of $100,000 on your home (meaning you have a home worth about $200,000), you would pay $700 per year in taxes for 7 mills (1 mill would equal $100 and 7 Mills would equal $700.)

Here are some other basics from the school district:

The bond would be sold in three series protecting the district for the next 10-15 years. The total square footage of the buildings across the district is 660,000. The average age of the district’s school buildings is 49 years old.

According to CSD, the state of Michigan (michigan.gov) defines the useful life of a school building at 40 years.

“Many core infrastructure systems, especially in our oldest buildings; North Creek, South Meadows, Beach Middle School, and the Washington Street Education Center (1955), have outlived their expected life cycles,” CSD said of the bond in its press release. “The district has continued to address preventative maintenance as much as possible; simply to the point where systems can no longer just be repaired, but should be replaced. In addition, the district has not been able to address the changing needs of our students inside of the classrooms with flexible learning environments that promote collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication. This bond will support modern learning environments for our students.”

Also, included in the bond are renovations to Pierce Lake Elementary School.

“As you are aware, this building has been closed for several years due to declining enrollment,” the school district said. “Over the past few years our enrollment has stabilized and with the residential development in and around Chelsea, we need to be prepared to open Pierce should enrollment warrant. Both of our elementary buildings are approaching capacity and having an alternative plan is necessary at this time.”

In addition, CSD’s enrollment study executed by Plante Moran shows increased enrollment over the next five years. If its enrollment does not increase and Pierce remains closed, the school district will divert funds in the bond to other projects outlined in the bond application.

Other key renovations will include updates to classrooms, technology, student common areas such as the Library Media Center, auditoriums, a new auxiliary gym with weight room at the high school.

“Based on community input, the plan creates a versatile, student friendly learning space that supports high volumes of students in a collaborative and interactive learning environment,” the school district said. “As with any renovation, federal law requires all updated buildings meet current fire, health, and handicap accessibility standards.”

To learn more and see the bonding video, go to https://www.chelsea.k12.mi.us/bond-proposal-2019.

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