Western High School would receive major upgrades through the bond. Overall, 22 buildings would see much-needed improvements, officials said.

Western High School would receive major upgrades through the bond. Overall, 22 buildings would see much-needed improvements, officials said.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Voters in Walled Lake Schools to decide $316M bond

Homeowners will see no tax increase if bond is approved

By: Andy Kozlowski | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 18, 2019

 If the bond issue passes during the special election May 7, the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools district would use the money for a variety of projects, including the construction of a completely new Dublin Elementary, following which the original building would be demolished.

If the bond issue passes during the special election May 7, the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools district would use the money for a variety of projects, including the construction of a completely new Dublin Elementary, following which the original building would be demolished.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WALLED LAKE — Between aging infrastructure and outdated amenities, the 22 buildings in the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools district are in need of an upgrade.

During a special election May 7, voters will decide whether to approve a 30-year bond issue totaling $316 million. School officials said that the average homeowner would not see a tax increase under the bond — and compared to 2018, they would see savings.

The bond would pay for a variety of improvements across each of the school district’s facilities, but Western High School and Dublin Elementary School would receive the most extensive overhauls, with the elementary school being completely rebuilt alongside the original building, which would subsequently be razed and turned into paved areas and playgrounds.

Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said the proposal has long been in development, shaped by research with consultants and community feedback gathered at forums last fall, as well as resident surveys over the past several years.

“When needs were assessed, there were more than $500 million in projects that were noted. We have narrowed this list considerably,” Gutman said in a statement. “It is not a wish list. Instead, it is a list that will ensure Walled Lake Schools is able to continue its mission to be the best school district in America.”

 

Cost and benefit
The district currently has five outstanding debt obligations, four of which will be paid off within the next five years. For the debt millage levied in 2018, residents paid 4.53 mills, which equates to $453 per year for a home valued at $200,000, with a taxable value of $100,000.

If voters approve the new bond May 7, the annual debt millage to retire the current bonds — as well as the new bond itself — would actually decrease by 0.4 mill to just 4.13 mills, so that the same homeowner would pay $413 per year.

If the bond were to fail, the district would need to pursue options less advantageous to taxpayers, Judy Evola, the director of community relations and marketing for the district, said in an email.

“If the bond fails, a homeowner of a $200,000 home would pay $150 or less. If this occurs, WLCSD does not have money to make the needed upgrades in the general fund; the sinking fund is not enough to make a dent in these projects, and the district would have to reassess the projects, and bring a bond forward that would be a tax increase at a later date.”

The district collects $1 for every $1,000 of a home’s taxable value, multiplied by the millage rate. The money collected would fund a dizzying array of projects throughout the district.

Dublin Elementary School, located at 425 Farnsworth Road in White Lake, is around 90 years old. It was built in 1928 and is now showing its age with heating and cooling issues, and pipes falling apart, including a pipe that burst in a hallway last year. The original three-story building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, lacking an elevator for students who need one.

If voters approve the bond issue, Dublin Elementary would be completely rebuilt. A new building would be constructed on the same property, while the original building remains intact. Once the new building is finished, the old one would then be demolished and replaced with paved areas and playgrounds.

The new Dublin Elementary would feature 24 classrooms in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, and an early childhood extension, a large-group instructional space, a gymnasium, a music room, an art room, a cafeteria, a playground, and support spaces for special education, administration, custodial services and more. The new building would be fully furnished and would feature modern security measures, improved technology, LED lighting, and paved spaces for parking and picking up/dropping off kids.

Evola said in an email that Plante Moran research on community demographics showed that 56 percent of preschool children in the district do not attend Walled Lake Consolidated Schools preschool programs.

“By building an early childhood wing on the proposed new Dublin Elementary at the north end of the district and constructing an early childhood facility on the south end of the district, we believe we can offer excellent preschool education that is integrated and extends directly into our K-12 program for our community,” Evola said. “Further, by placing our existing preschool program in these new spaces, the district plans to offer an ‘Early Five’ kindergarten option in our elementary schools.”

 

Other projects
Western High School, located at 600 Beck Road in Walled Lake, would also receive major upgrades under the bond issue.

Among the litany of improvements are a new, secure-entry vestibule; new administrative and counseling offices; a new academic wing featuring 46 teaching spaces; a new robotics lab; 16 remodeled teaching spaces; a remodeled kitchen and cafeteria; remodeled athletic spaces, including the gym, weight room and locker rooms; a remodeled auditorium, including support spaces, and new equipment, flooring and seating; new heating and cooling, including improvements to plumbing and fire suppression systems; upgraded electrical systems, including lighting, power and communication systems; exterior upgrades to the roof, windows and siding; interior upgrades, including new furniture; upgrades to the gymnasium; upgrades to the natatorium, including the filtration, mechanical and pool equipment; site work in the form of paving, LED lighting, a resurfaced track, stadium lighting, field drainage and partial demolition; and a new stadium team room building.

And the district’s plans don’t end there.

The bond would pay for improvements at the district’s other 20 buildings as well, in the form of exterior and interior upgrades; HVAC upgrades, including boilers and exhaust fans; work on electrical panels and outlets; site upgrades for playgrounds and parking; security upgrades; improved technology; and more.

Evola said that with four of the current five bonds expected to “be paid off shortly,” the timing is right for a new bond issue that would cover many of these critical needs, the cost of which far exceed the district’s sinking fund.

“Walled Lake Schools has been fiscally responsible, seizing each opportunity to refund/refinance bonds and paying them off much before the 30-year due dates,” Evola said.

For more information, call the school district at (248) 956-2000.

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