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$10.4 million sought by Galesburg-Augusta Schools for major upgrades

GALESBURG, MI – Voters in the Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools district will be asked on Tuesday, May 3 to approve a $10.4 million bond issue to fund school improvements.

If approved, it would not increase the district’s property tax rate, which would continue to be levied at the current rate. The district is requesting an extension of the current 6.28 mill property tax levy for an addition four years. It is otherwise set to drop to 3.88 mills after December 2016.

“What people paid in December of 2015, in terms of tax rate, will be the same in December of 2016,” said schools Superintendent Dania Bazzi.

Proponents of the bond issue say the 6.28-mill property tax rate compares favorably to nearby school districts. It is more than the current 5.80 mills in Portage, but less than the 9.59 mill rate in Parchment, the 7.24 mills in Mattawan and the 6.95 mills in Kalamazoo.

The $10.4 milion in proceeds from the bond issue would be used to fund a bevy of building improvements, technology upgrades, security upgrades and infrastructure improvements, with Bazzi and other proponents touting the need to keep students warm, safe and dry.

“I would say the main focus of the bond issue is really three things,” Bazzi said. “The first thing is safety and security. All of our school entrances do not have secure vestibules meaning anybody can gain access to our buildings without filtering through the main office.”

She said that’s not acceptable in this day and age. Signs are posted that tell people to check with the office but there is nothing to ensure that, she said.

“The second thing is our middle school is roughly 40 years old and hasn’t had any major improvements since its inception,” said the superintendent. “It’s an old building with good bones but we really believe that our students deserve an updated and enhanced learning environment.”

The building accommodates grades five through eight.

“This bond will bring the middle school up to the level of our other two schools (school buildings),” she said.

Galesburg-Augusta High School was built in 2003 and the district’s primary school is the former high school building that received major upgrades in 2003 as it was converted for use by younger students.

The third reason for the request to continue the millage at its current rate, Bazzi said, is to make technology upgrades. “The 21st century has arrived and it’s been here for 16 years,” she said.

“We are integrating technology in the classroom but it’s at a much slower pace than is needed.”

Keeping pace with advancing technology is “not only getting devices in students hands, but it’s also improvements in the infrastructure to be able to support the increasing number of devices,” Bazzi said.

Devices for students will include such things as laptop computers, Chromebooks, computer tablets/iPads and a large venue projector. But new technology for the schools will include such things as climate control systems and integrated heating, ventilating and air conditioning controls.

The school district has been unsuccessful in past elections seeking money for major school improvements. The most recent attempt was made in November when a request for a 0.95 mill increase – to generate $14 million to pay for repairs and upgrades at the three school buildings, as well as to build a new athletic stadium at the high school – was defeated by 132 votes.

Bazzi said she will keep pushing for upgrades, however, because students deserve them and the changes being requested are not simply a matter of the school doing better maintenance.

“A lot of people say there’s a lack of maintenance,” she said. “There really isn’t. The school district has done everything it can do to maintain the buildings, but at certain points – as with the roof on your house – things can’t be maintained. They have to be replaced.”

If the bond issue is approved, of the money collected, $7,914,110 will be spent at the middle school to:replace the roof, windows and doors; install a security entrance vestibule, install a card access system; and install security cameras.

Major renovations will include new flooring, ceilings, lighting, and climate controls as well as mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Corridor lockers will be installed as well as cabinets, a public address system, a clock and fire alarm systems. Improvements will also be made in the parking lots, including lighting and signage. There will also be new classroom furniture and technology upgrades.

The millage will fund $1,237,011 at the primary school. It will pay for the partial replacement of the roof of the primary school and the installation of a security entrance vestibule, a card access system, security cameras, integrated HVAC controls, and site lighting. New classroom furniture and technology upgrades are also planned.

Some $1,253,761 will be headed to the high school. It will be used to replace the roof, install a security entrance vestibule, a card access system, climate controls and to make HVAC and technology upgrades.

MLive writer Al Jones may be contacted at ajones5@mlive.com. Follow me on Twitter at ajones5_al.

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