South Lake Schools bond proposal slated for August election

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 24, 2023

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — South Lake Schools is asking voters to approve a bond proposal in the amount of $49,750,000 on Aug. 8.

According to the South Lake Schools website, the district is asking voters to maintain the bond already in place, but not increase the current level of taxes voters are paying.

South Lake Schools Superintendent Ted Von Hiltmayer reiterated they will not ask for a tax increase, and he explained a bit more.

“We have to levy mills in order to pay the bond back,” Von Hiltmayer said. “So we’re to the point now where we’ve paid enough of the bond back to the previous bond that we can go back and ask the voters to approve another bond.”

Michael Damiani, president of the South Lake Schools Board of Education, said the district came up with the amount based on what the current bond level was at.

“We didn’t want to go into a situation where we were increasing the current load on the district,” Damiani said. “So we settled on a number that kept the current level the same plus gave us funding to accomplish some of the work we wanted to do at the buildings and for the district.”

The bond will be used to buy new equipment such as boilers, fix some of the school parking lots, add an addition to the high school, replace some school roofs and other improvements. Von Hiltmayer likened the schools to homes and said there will always be things that need to be replaced.

“Knowing that all of these things were basically coming due, coming to the end of their life, we knew that it was important for us to go back out and ask the voters to support another bond so that we can continue to maintain our facilities and keep them nice,” Von Hiltmayer said.

He added that the bond cannot be used for staffing purposes and can only be used for building improvements.

The work would be divided into three phases if the bond passes, Von Hiltmayer said.

The first phase includes the elementary school building projects, and they would start with the parking lots, and the heating and cooling systems, which includes boilers.

Not everything can realistically get done during the summer, Von Hiltmayer said. During the middle school’s project, they secured the area being worked on to seclude it during the school year. Similar procedures could be used for this bond proposal for work during the school year.

“Obviously, we would get as much work done as we can in the summer, but we would know that in order to do this in a timely manner. It would take many, many, many years if you could only get work done in the summer,” Von Hiltmayer said.

No disruptions are anticipated for student drop off and pick up due to the projects, Von Hiltmayer said.

“We’d be deliberate in how we coordinate when those things happen,” Von Hiltmayer said. “If we’re going to redo parking lots, then we know that would be something that we have to do in the summer. Because we couldn’t have the parking lot torn up during the school year. It would be very inconvenient.”

Von Hiltmayer said the improvements that would cost the most money are heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

“We estimate that would be roughly about half of what we’re asking for,” Von Hiltmayer said.

Damiani said HVAC was one of the things that definitely had to get done as well as the school roofs and renovation projects.

The addition to the high school would create a commons area for the students, Von Hiltmayer said, and it would have the biggest visual impact.

“It allows kids to have a place where they can be in the morning,” Von Hiltmayer said. “So if it’s raining, if it’s cold, they can be in the building.”

He went on to say it gives kids an area to charge devices and work on homework safely. It would also be the entrance for people coming to the high school for plays, performances, athletics and other things.

Damiani said it was a unanimous decision by the school board to approve placing the bond on the ballot.

“Every upgrade we make to facilities as far as lighting and security and what not benefits the district and there wasn’t a single dissenting vote on the board for moving forward with this,” Damiani said.

Both Damiani and Von Hiltmayer said the people they’ve talked to have not been objectionable to the bond and have had a good response. Von Hiltmayer said the families recognize that the school buildings need to be upkept like a home. He said the staff and students are excited for the upgrades.

“I know they’re excited about the idea or the possibility of this passing and my interactions with the community have been positive,” Von Hiltmayer said.

For more information on the bond, visit the South Lakes School website at

School Improvement bond proposition
According to the office of Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini, the following language for the South Lake Schools bond proposition will appear on the ballot for the Aug. 8 election:

Shall the South Lake Schools, County of Macomb, State of Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed Forty-Nine Million Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($49,750,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds, in one or more series, for the purpose of paying for the cost of the following projects:

• Remodeling, equipping, re-equipping, furnishing, re-furnishing school buildings, athletic facilities, playgrounds and other facilities and the construction of an addition to the existing high school building to create a modern learning environment for students and enhancing health, safety, security and energy conservation;

• Acquiring and installing technology equipment and technology infrastructure in school buildings and other facilities; and

• Preparing, developing and improving sites at school buildings, athletic facilities, playgrounds and other facilities and the purchase of school buses?

The estimated millage that will be levied to pay the proposed bonds in the first year is 2.07 mills (which is equal to $2.07 per $1,000 of taxable value) for a -0- mill net increase over the annual debt millage levied in 2023; the estimated simple average annual millage that will be required to retire each series of bonds is 3.78 mills annually ($3.78 per $1,000 of taxable value); and the maximum number of years any series of bonds may be outstanding, exclusive of refunding, is not more than 30 years.

If approved by the voters, the repayment of the bonds will be guaranteed by the State under the School Bond Qualification and Loan Program (the “Program”). The School District currently has $21,095,000 of qualified bonds outstanding and approximately $0 of qualified loans outstanding under the Program. The School District does not expect to borrow from the Program to pay debt service on these bonds. The estimated computed millage rate required to be levied to pay the proposed bonds may change in the future based on changes in certain circumstances.

(Pursuant to State law, expenditure of bond proceeds must be audited, and the proceeds cannot be used for teacher, administrator or employee salaries, repair or maintenance costs or other operating expenses.)