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Mid-Michigan voters pass school bond proposals for three districts

top back of a school bus
Nick Quan

Voters in East Lansing, Holt and Waverly school districts approved funding for building upgrades during the May 7 special election. A bond for St. Johns Public Schools was rejected.

Voters in three mid-Michigan school districts approved bond proposals Tuesday to fund improvements at school buildings, with one district narrowly rejecting a financing measure.

The ballot proposals that voters authorized during the May 7 special election allow school officials to borrow millions of dollars for a number of renovations.

The projects include new security cameras and secure entrances, upgrades to heating and cooling infrastructure and construction for new classrooms, administration buildings and athletics facilities.

Each of the proposals will maintain millages at their current levels without raising property taxes, according to officials.

East Lansing Public Schools

More than two-thirds of voters in the East Lansing Public Schools district supported a proposal to borrow $23.5 million to fund security and infrastructure renovations.

With unofficial results showing 17% of registered voters in Ingham County participating in the election, 3,141 voters in the district supported adopting the bond.

Officials have said the measure will enable the district to construct new secure entrances while making upgrades to security cameras and heating and cooling systems at East Lansing High School and MacDonald Middle School.

The bond is also expected to fund the expansion of cafeteria seating at the high school and construction of a new central administration building that will shift public meetings to a separate location off school grounds.

St. Johns Public Schools

Voters in the St. Johns Public Schools district voters narrowly rejected a $92 million bond proposal.

Based on unofficial results from the Clinton County Clerk's office, 2,205 voters, or 51.3% of the total votes cast, were against the proposal with 2,096, or 48.7%, voting in support of the measure.

Just over a quarter of registered voters turned out to vote on the millage.

Prior to the election, school officials said upgrades to the district are necessary because many of its current facilities are over 50-years-old and contain their original systems.

The proposal would have funded construction for new elementary school playgrounds as well as a new early childhood center, heating and cooling improvements and investments in the district's academic, athletic and fine arts facilities.

St. Johns District Superintendent Anthony Berthiaume said he is looking for input from residents on how the school system can pay for future projects.

“I think we have some reflection that we need to do and make sure that if and when we go for another bond proposal, (we) make sure it passes,” Berthiaume said.

Residents in the St. Johns public school district are expected to see a drop in property taxes starting in 2027. Berthiaume said the district will use at least $1 million in existing funds to make limited improvements on heating systems and parking facilities.

Holt Public Schools

A razor-thin majority of Holt Public Schools district voters were in favor of a proposal to borrow $22 million and upgrade decades-old school infrastructure.

By a margin of 37 voters, 50.3% of voters in the district supported the measure, with 49.7% against authorizing additional funds.

The bond approved Tuesday comes on the heels of a $148 million proposal approved in 2021 to fund upgrades at Midway Early Learning Center, Elliott Elementary School and Wilcox Elementary School.

Officials said this year's proposal will allow the district to renovate plumbing, roofing, windows and heating and cooling systems in school buildings.

Other improvements will include two new school busses, added security cameras and a secure space where visitors would wait before entering the building.

Waverly Community Schools

Waverly Community Schools district voters gave a thumbs-up to a plan for officials to borrow $8.02 millionto continue previous renovation plans.

More than 60% of voters in the district approved the ballot proposal.

The bond builds upon $125 million in funding approved in 2021 to pay for school improvements. Those include new classrooms, upgraded heating and cooling systems and a secure entrance for visitors.

Officials say the additional funding will address rising construction costs from inflation and labor shortages.

Updated: May 8, 2024 at 5:10 PM EDT
Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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