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Bond approval would fund new elementary building, athletic complex

Community will consider $88 million proposal, operating millage

Construction of a new elementary school and athletic complex are major projects an $88.09 million bond proposal would fund if voters approve the request Tuesday, May 5.

Also on the ballot, is the 5-year renewal of the districts’ 18-mill non homestead operating levy.

The major bond proposal is designed to address three priorities: safety and security, repairs and upgrades to facilities. Big ticket items include the replacement of Dutton Elementary and the construction of a new athletic facility. The Caledonia Public Schools Board of Education approved putting requests on the ballot in February and still planned to move forward with the election despite the mandated school closure.

The district’s last bond was passed in 2014, funding an additional freshman campus, site renovations and technology upgrades. Growth has continued since then.

Caledonia Public Schools voters May 5 will consider two requests

1. An $88.09 million bond to fund a new elementary school, and new athletic complex and general improvements across the district. Approval would extend the district’s current levy of 7.0 mills by 30 years, but would not result in a tax increase.

2. An operating millage renewal that would allow the district to continue to levy 18 mills on non-homestead properties, renewing the current millage set to expire with the 2020 tax levy.

For more information, go to the district website

“Caledonia has a reputation of academic excellence which helps keep property values and home values strong, attracting new families, businesses and talent to our area that support Caledonia’s continued economic growth and success,” Martin said. “Supporting our schools is about supporting our entire community and making sure we stay competitive instead of falling behind.”

During a strategic planning process last year, the district engaged with the community, parents and staff concerning what the district does well and what needs improvement, Martin said. From that, bond projects and goals over the next five years took shape.

Addressing growth is a major priority. With a number of housing developments under way in the community and more expected in the future, the bond is designed to increase district capacity while maintaining the same number of overall buildings, Martin said.

“While we do not expect to grow as fast as in previous years, we are still growing and expect that to continue in the near future,” he said. 

Along with its major bond proposal, Caledonia voters will also consider renewing the district’s 18-mill non-homestead operating millage, extending funding until 2025.

The Caledonia bond proposal addresses $88.09 million in district improvements
The Caledonia bond proposal addresses $88.09 million in district improvements

Non-Homestead Renewal

Voters will also consider renewing the district’s 18-mill non-homestead operating millage, extending funding until 2025. 

The  operating millage funds day-to-day operations. If approved, homeowners will not see an increase in their primary residence property tax. Non-homestead properties have not been designated as a primary residence, but are businesses, rental properties and vacation homes.

Renewal would extend the millage for five years. Without it, the district estimates a decrease in state School Aid Foundation allowance by $2,018 per student, or $10.21 million each year, said Superintendent Dedrick Martin.

“If this passes, we will be able to start the next 2020-21 school year with funding for day-to-day operations secured and be able to begin needed facility repairs and improvements,” Martin said. “Since this is part of the funding formula for public school districts, the loss of this operating millage would be devastating to our district and would require major cuts to our operations,” Martin said.

Superintendent Dedrick Martin talks to Natalia Quigley, at left, and Lauren Kingsbury at Duncan Lake Middle School

Breaking Down Project Costs

Planned bond projects include the $39 million eplacement of Dutton Elementary, a 64-year-old school facility. It will also cover safety and security measures, HVAC systems, roofs and parking lots districtwide.

Dutton Elementary is the smallest school in the district and is surrounded by commercial and industrial zoned property on all sides with very few homes nearby. 

“We do not believe that the location or the instructional space is an equitable learning environment in comparison to all other school sites within our district,” Martin said.

Administrators are considering district-owned properties for the new elementary school, but the site is to be determined. The future of the current Dutton Elementary building will also be decided after the election.

An approximately $16 million new athletic complex would serve as a community resource center and athletic facility, replacing the long-standing resource center currently located within Duncan Lake Middle School.

The new development would house athletics, performing arts as well as a new community center with a swimming pool and multi-use gymnasium. The primary district use would be for athletics and community resource center programming, Martin said. 

“The swimming pool will provide a new asset for our community,” Martin said, noting that students currently use facilities far outside our district  to practice and compete.

The district also plans to expand on Caledonia’s relationship with the YMCA through a new partnership that would allow  additional programming opportunities developed and run by the YMCA.

Approximately $16 million of the bond would be allocated for community wellness, $8.5 million would for technology and equipment, and $24.8 million for teaching and learning enhancements.

The Caledonia Board of Education approved the special election for both the bond proposal and operating millage

First Things First 

If the bond passes, work at Kraft Meadows and Duncan Lake middle school are first priorities.

Kraft Meadows would be converted from a sixth-through-eighth-grade building to a school that houses all fifth and sixth graders. Additionally, Duncan Lake would be converted from a sixth-through-eighth-grade building to house all seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“Our bond proposal will allow us to invest in much needed security and safety enhancements and repairs to update aging buildings so our kids can learn in a safe environment without taking dollars from the classroom,” Martin said.

The district’s last bond was passed in 2014, funding an additional freshman campus, site renovations and technology upgrades.

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Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.

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