Bond work progresses in Madison District Public Schools

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published February 22, 2023

 Madison High School will receive a new roof along with new mechanical systems upgrades, including air conditioning, as part of renovations currently getting underway.

Madison High School will receive a new roof along with new mechanical systems upgrades, including air conditioning, as part of renovations currently getting underway.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


MADISON HEIGHTS — In November 2021, voters in the Madison District Public Schools approved a bond issue that will fund renovations at buildings including the Early Childhood Center and Madison High School, modernizing their systems for improved comfort, efficiency and security.

That work continues in 2023 under Patricia Perry, who became superintendent last year, and an administrative team that includes several directors who assumed their positions last fall.

“It’s important this work goes forward because it’s long overdue,” said Mark Kimble, a member of the Madison District Public Schools Board of Education. “We’re also very thankful to have such competent people in these (administrative) positions, since many districts are facing worker shortages.”

Perry said that the extensive planning and design phase has been completed successfully and that the district is now in the middle of the procurement phase, where materials are ordered for the work to be done at the buildings. Those are scheduled to arrive this June, when the bulk of the work will commence. She said that there is already some preliminary construction taking place after school hours during the contractor’s second shift, as a way to get a jump on the summer work.

The superintendent characterized it as a challenge, but one she feels confident the district will meet by the time the new school year begins in the fall.

During the big summer push, the rooftops will be replaced and a variety of mechanical systems will be renovated. The new roofs at the Early Childhood Center and Madison High School will keep the students safe and dry, she said, and will include new rooftop equipment.

At the high school, there will also be new horizontal unit ventilators in each classroom and a modern air filtration system keeping the air clean. Classrooms will also be air conditioned now, keeping them cool in the warmer months. A new series of doors will ensure higher security, as will new visitor pathways into the front office for more thorough screening.

A new restroom in the common area — compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act — will increase student convenience and feature improved security as well. A new bell system will be put in place to better manage student movement. There will also be a new clock system to keep students and staff on schedule.

Funding was secured last year when the district completed the sale of its 2022 school building and site bonds, the net proceeds of which amounted to $11.31 million. The bond itself was structured so that taxpayers won’t see an increase to their school taxes. During the November 2021 election, nearly 900 votes were cast in favor of the bond, while nearly 600 votes were against. The millage levied last year was estimated to be 1.8 mills — $1.80 on each $1,000 of taxable value. The bond represented a zero increase over the previous debt millage rate.

The groundwork for the proposal dates back to 2019, when a facility condition assessment was completed on behalf of the district by Performance Services and Byce & Associates, and then updated in 2021. That same year, SetSeg School Insurance Specialists conducted a facility and hazard assessment. Both studies identified critical facility needs at Madison High School, as well as roofing needs at the Early Childhood Center. Previously, the district’s limited budget had only allowed for short-term repairs, but now, aging infrastructure has reached the point where more extensive repairs are needed. For example, the majority of HVAC equipment at Madison High School dates back to 1963 — well beyond its recommended lifespan.

An audit conducted by Plante Moran in 2019 showed the district had a surplus of nearly $3.3 million in 2012, but was overspending up through the 2019 fiscal year. When a new board and superintendent took over in early 2019, they found the district teetering on the brink of collapse, with a deficit of $1.5 million projected for the following year.

The new board at the time implemented a series of corrective measures to stave off a deficit, which included cutting $1.5 million from the 2019-20 school year budget. Since then, the district has been attempting to bolster its fund balance, which eventually led to the district being removed from a state watch list that requires districts to have 5% or more of their expenditures in savings. Earlier in 2021, the district celebrated additional good news when it sold its 2021 refunding bonds for roughly $9.6 million, resulting in interest payment savings of $747,000. Those savings represented nearly 8% of the bonds that remained.

The sale of the former Edison Elementary School to the charter school Keys Grace Academy provided the district with $1.3 million. The district continues to be the fiscal agent for Keys Grace and stands to gain another $1.3 million from the deal for a total of $2.6 million over the next 10 years.

The bond work is being implemented by Perry and an administrative team that includes new directors such as Lawrence Miller, director of business and finance, who took the role in September; Aaron Ondra, director of specialized student services, who started in October; and Pam Vermiglio, assistant superintendent, who started her new position in November.

Cindy Holder, the president of the Madison District Public Schools Board of Education, said the district is proceeding carefully with the work.

“We’ve done our due diligence. This work not only benefits our students and staff, but also everyone who lives in the district, whether they have kids or not, because good schools are also good for home values,” Holder said. “But obviously, the comfort of our students and staff is key. That will be easier to maintain after the work is done. Like we’ve never had central air at the high school before, and if the kids are sweating, they’re distracted from learning. So (central air) will be huge for everyone’s comfort levels, especially at the end of the school year when everything is hot.”