Three aging boilers at Madison High School are due for replacement as part of bond-funded repairs that will also include new roofs at the high school, middle school and Early Childhood Center, plus new lighting, electrical, plumbing, security, masonry and more.

Three aging boilers at Madison High School are due for replacement as part of bond-funded repairs that will also include new roofs at the high school, middle school and Early Childhood Center, plus new lighting, electrical, plumbing, security, masonry and more.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Madison District Public Schools officials share plans for repairs

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 8, 2021

 Not only will the lighting in each building be improved, but the ceiling tiles will be replaced too. Classrooms will finally have air conditioning, as well — a highly requested feature.

Not only will the lighting in each building be improved, but the ceiling tiles will be replaced too. Classrooms will finally have air conditioning, as well — a highly requested feature.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison District Public Schools secured a bond in the election last month that will pay for a variety of repairs and upgrades across the district — replacing roofs, fixing boilers, adding air conditioning and more. The bond was structured so that taxpayers won’t see an increase to their school taxes. Instead, students will see quality-of-life improvements at the buildings where they learn, and operating costs will be lowered thanks to more efficient systems.  

MDPS Superintendent Angel Abdulahad also said he is eager to keep taxpayers apprised of every step of the process, with a three-pronged approach that includes monthly updates to the district’s Board of Education, special presentations detailing key developments, and updates at the district’s website — www.madisondistrict.org — where members of the public can follow each project.

Abdulahad said that based on reports from SetSeg School Insurance Specialists, the top priorities for repairs are the roofs at Madison High School, the Madison Early Childhood Center, and Wilkinson Middle School; as well as heating and cooling at the high school.

Regarding the roofs, “I believe one roof at a time will be our approach, unless the winning bid has enough employees on standby to do all roofs at the same time,” Abdulahad said in an email. “Again, for me it’s the roofs first, then HVAC, brickwork, lighting and electrical.”

He said that all work will be competitively bid in an open and transparent process to ensure that the district and its taxpayers get the best value from each contractor.

“However, we are not just looking for the lowest bidder — we are also looking for venders with a high level of integrity, best standards and practices, warranty work, and an excellent history of standing by the work they do,” Abdulahad said. “And I prefer a contractor that will guarantee no change orders, so that they stick to the price quoted at the start, rather than raising the price as they make new discoveries — but not many contractors will guarantee that.”

At press time, the board was set to approve a resolution at its meeting Dec. 6 authorizing the issuance of the bonds. Then the district will begin the process of securing contracts for construction management and architectural design.

“I anticipate that we will start receiving the bond proceeds in February, and the work will begin in the summer of 2022,” Abdulahad said. “We also do sub-contractor bids. So for example, if a vendor brings in a specialist to do the plumbing, then that will be bid out, too.”

He said it’s possible that many different companies could get involved.

“We could have one roofer doing the roofs on all three buildings, and another bidder doing all of the brickwork, and another doing all of the HVAC, all running simultaneously to each other. It will just come down to what we determine to be the best value in each case,” Abdulahad said. “We will update the board monthly, regarding the work that is being done. We will provide reports and presentations in public meetings for all to see. And we will have a bond tab created for our website that shows where we are in the build process. Every time work gets done, we will update the tab.

“We treat every dollar we receive as an accountable dollar,” he continued. “The money is taxpayer money, and they have entrusted the district to spend it wisely, and exactly how we said that we would spend it. We have increased our fund balance yearly to show the community we can be trusted with their money. Our goal is to rebuild the sense of trust this community had in us, and to continue to grow upwards.”  

    
Bond background
During the Nov. 2 election, there were nearly 900 votes cast in favor of the bond, and nearly 600 votes against. The bond will raise $11.4 million, with the millage levied next year estimated to be 1.8 mills — $1.80 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation. The bond will be repaid over 25 years, and it represents a zero increase over the current debt millage rate.

In addition to fixing the roofs at the schools, the bond will also make needed interior repairs to damaged ceiling tiles, painted surfaces and masonry, and will also allow the district to remodel and re-equip the high school with a new HVAC system that includes highly-requested air conditioning units and improved air quality, as well as boiler and pipe repairs, enhanced security and upgraded lighting.

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, an architecture and engineering firm, and then updated this year. Also this year, SetSeg School Insurance Specialists conducted a facility and hazard assessment.

Both studies identified critical facility needs at Madison High, as well as roofing needs at Wilkinson Middle School and the Madison Early Childhood Center. Officials explained that previously, the district’s limited budget has 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 dates back to 1963 — well beyond its recommended operational lifespan.

As previously reported, 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 power 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.

Abdulahad, who became superintendent that year, implemented a series of corrective measures to stave off a deficit. This included cutting $1.5 million from the 2019-20 school year budget. Since then, the district has been attempting to bolster its fund balance.

This has led to the district being removed from a state watch list that requires districts to have 5% or more of their expenditures in savings. Currently, the district has exceeded that goal, with a fund balance around 10% and growing.

Earlier this year, the district celebrated some more good news, selling its 2021 refunding bonds for roughly $9.6 million, resulting in interest payment savings of $747,000. The savings represent nearly 8% of the bonds that remain.

The sale of the former Edison Elementary School to the charter school Keys Grace Academy has provided the district another $1.3 million. The district will also continue to be the fiscal agent for Keys Grace for the next 10 years, for which the district stands to gain another $1.3 million, for a total $2.6 million.

Abdulahad said that he is confident people will be pleased with the final result of the bond-funded repairs and upgrades.

“I believe the best quality-of-life improvement will be having buildings that are safe, updated, and where the climate is perfectly controlled to provide the best learning environment for our staff and for our students — an orderly, clean and safe environment that allows for optimal learning,” he said.

Added Cindy Holder, the president of the MDPS Board of Education, in an email: “It was great to see the public support the bond proposal that we worked very hard to put together. Everyone wins here. Students, staff and our community all reap the benefits with our building repairs and improvements that are coming soon.

“I am hopeful this vote of confidence will be the first step in moving MDPS forward together,” Holder continued. “We aim to continue to keep and earn the community’s support, and keep them informed of the process and progress.”

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