School bond: Board seeks May 7 voter approval of bond extension 2013.05.01

Written by David Green.

Morenci school district voters will consider two proposals during a special election Tuesday, May 7. The operating millage proposal is placed before voters every year, but the bond proposal is a new request—a proposal that will cost taxpayers no additional money.

OPERATING—The operating millage is the annual request to allow the district to assess the full 18-mills on non-homestead property, such as vacation homes, apartment buildings, rental homes and commercial/industrial property.

The Headlee rollback approved by Michigan legislators in 2004 reduces taxes levied, but voter approval allows the full 18 mills on certain properties.

Although the ballot language describes the proposal as an increase, it’s actually a renewal of the existing millage.

BOND—Morenci Elementary School is more than 50 years old and the high school has passed the 40-year mark. Both buildings are in need of repair and improvements.

Morenci Board of Education members are seeking voter approval of a bonding proposal that will bring in an estimated $2.96 million over a 19-year period.

“This will make sure we have the money needed to take care of maintenance issues,” said board president Scott Merillat, noting that money is not available in the general fund.

“Our financial problems will only get worse if we have to take money from the general fund,” he said.

Funds generated from the bond cannot go toward salaries and benefits, Merillat said, but that money will help the district avoid using money designated for classroom education.

“Even if the bond passes,” he said, “we’re still going to be in financial difficulty.”

Merillat said the district has been fortunate that no major physical emergencies have arisen in recent years—a situation that would have plunged the district deeper into debt—and money from the bond proposal will address some needs before they become more expensive.

A proposed list of building improvements includes the following: heating and plumbing upgrades, asbestos abatement, filtration systems, energy efficiency upgrades, high school parking lot repairs, roof repair, press box repair, bleacher repair (inside and outside), fire panel upgrades, weight room ventilation, transportation heaters, security improvements and new buses.

Upgrades to internet delivery systems are needed in all three school buildings.

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    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
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