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District approves $68 million bond by 12 votes

Planning moves forward on high school renovation

Voters narrowly approved — with 2,371 yes and 2,359 no votes — a $68 million bond issue Tuesday to fund district-wide building improvements.  

Now the district will move forward on preparing for construction of 12 new classrooms at Cedar Springs High School, part of a $15.49 million project, with plans to break ground in March or April, said Superintendent Scott Smith. The high school addition is to be completed in two phases and also includes a new multipurpose room, cafeteria, counseling center additions and other projects.

The 30-year bond will pay for improvements at all six school buildings, as well as better security and safety, and updated educational technology. The biggest ticket project is $27.1 million in construction and renovation at Beach Elementary, slated to begin in spring of 2022.

“The most important thing it does is it really helps us take care of the long-term needs of buildings to extend their livelihood,” said Superintendent Scott Smith. “This bond is going to get us set as far as major projects and investments go for 10 to 15 years at a minimum, which is exciting.”

The bond is not expected to cause a net tax rate increase over the current 7 mills, but would extend the rate for 18 years.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the district passed a bond to support significant building improvements. 

A Successful Second Attempt

The bond is a scaled-back version of 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. 

Smith said 800 more voters cast yes votes this time around, even amidst a global pandemic.  The November request failed with 1,502 yes and 1,935 no votes.

“It’s humbling. We are so thankful that over 2,400 residents rallied and demonstrated their support of the district by casting yes votes,” he said. “It’s a great indicator that our community is unified in support of the district.”

The bond will also fund projects 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 
  • Replacing outdated classroom technology and improving climate-control systems including air conditioning.

All projects will be complete by 2024. For more on building-by-building improvements and other details, go to the district’s bond information page.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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