Two local districts ask voters to approve funding proposals

Leaders of Cedar Springs Public Schools and Lowell Area Schools have funding requests on next week’s Aug. 4 primary ballot, for building, campus and technology improvements. Here are the details: 

Cedar Springs 

The growing district is asking voters to approve a $68 million bond issue to pay for improvements to all six school buildings, better security and safety, and updated educational technology. If approved the measure is not expected to cause a net tax rate increase over the current 7 mills and would extend it for 18 years, said Superintendent Scott Smith. He noted it’s been nearly 20 years since the district passed a bond to support significant building improvements.  

While not promising the millage rate would never rise, Smith said it’s unlikely because property values in the district continue to increase, yielding more tax revenue. Typically investment in schools makes communities more attractive, thus raising property values, he added. 

“Historically, property values in our community have increased consistently over time,” Smith said in a press release.  “As long as this trend continues, the millage rate would remain capped at 7 mills to pay off these new bonds.  We don’t expect a tax rate increase because we don’t expect property values to decline in Cedar Springs.” 

The proposal scales down an $81.15 million proposal that was defeated by voters last November, and which would have increased the tax rate by about 0.90 mills. That proposal was revised after officials took surveys and held forums with parents, community members and staff. It drops the previous proposal’s plan for a new eighth-ninth grade building. 

The Aug. 4 request retains other items in the original request, including: 

  • Capital improvements such as new boilers and roofing, and upgraded mechanical and management systems to increase energy efficiency; 
  • Constructing secure entrances at schools that don’t have them, and improving traffic flow, parking and sidewalks for better safety and circulation on campus; 
  • Replacing 1960s-built academic wings at Beach Elementary with new classrooms and adding 12 classrooms to the high school;
  • Replacing outdated classroom technology and improving climate-control systems including air conditioning.

Smith will be holding virtual community forums on Zoom to answer questions about the millage at the following times: July 29, 7 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.; July, 30 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 7 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.; August 3, 7 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Visit www.csredhawks.org for the community forum meeting links.

For more on building-by-building improvements and other details, go to the district’s bond information page. 

Lowell 

Voters are being asked to renew a building and site sinking fund that is expiring after having been approved in 2013. The fund would generate a little over $900,000 yearly for six years, to be used for upgrades of aging buildings, safety and security improvements, asphalt replacement and new technology for students.

The 1-mill tax, levied through 2026, would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $100 per year.

The fund would pay for $1.8 million in facility improvements at all buildings, including security vestibules, less congested bus and car drop-off/pick up areas, and security system upgrades. It would expend $1.5 million for better technology including devices to ensure every student has access. It would replace part or all of the roofs at Alto and Murray Lake elementary schools and at the Wittenbach/Wege Center, and asphalt replacement at Bushnell and Cherry Creek schools. 

Sinking funds cannot be used for salaries, buses or furnishings. For more details go to the district’s information page

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.

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