BUCHANAN — Buchanan School Board members hope voters will look more favorably on a new bond issue proposal that at $19.5 million is smaller than the $31 million proposal people rejected in May.
Board members voted Monday night to put the new proposal on the Feb. 28 ballot. The new proposal was developed by a citizens committee after several months of work that included surveying residents and deciding to divide the project into two phases.
The first phase will cost $19.5 million and make needed renovations and additions to Buchanan Middle School and Ottawa Elementary School with Buchanan High School and Moccasin Elementary School getting smaller amounts. The bulk of the work at Moccasin is set for the second phase.
"We really tried to listen to what the community was saying in terms of the economy," Superintendent Andrea van der Laan said.
Under the plan, the middle school will get $10.6 million worth of the work including two additions and putting walls in classrooms; Ottawa. $7.7 million; the high school, $800,000; and Moccasin Elementary, $400,000.
The middle school work is scaled back slightly from what was originally proposed last spring with the building of an eighth-grade wing postponed until the second phase of the project. Van der Laan said most parents like the current situation with eighth-graders at the high school so that part of the middle school work was put on the back burner.
The work to be done at Ottawa is also a little less, because in large part to the enrollment projections done by Michigan Department of Treasury officials in their assessment of the new bond issue proposal. They now project enrollment going down, so a couple of new classrooms were taken off the plans.
Van der Laan noted that this proposal will also be lighter on people's pocketbooks if it passes. Rather than a 2.8 mill millage levy, this new smaller bond issue will require a 1.3 mill millage levy to pay it off.
That means for the owner of a $100,000 home with a $50,000 taxable value, the millage levy to pay off the new bond issue will cost them an extra $5.42 a month or an extra $65 a year.
The middle school renovations including putting walls in the classrooms remain the top priority for most people in the community, she said. More than 80 percent of people responding to a survey this summer said the middle school should be the top priority. A majority said the first proposal didn't pass because the cost was too high at a time when the economy is bad.
Van der Laan said there's no set timetable for when voters will be asked to approve the second phase of the work.
"We're taking a wait-and-see approach," she said. "It will depend on the whether the economy has come back. It's at least a few years out."
The campaign for the new bond issue is scheduled to kick off Jan. 18 and continue through to the Feb. 28 election day.