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Warren Consolidated bond issue passes

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published May 10, 2016

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WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — Improved security, updated technology, interior and exterior door replacements, improvements to heating and cooling systems, new school buses, and parking lot and sidewalk replacements are among the projects on the horizon for Warren Consolidated Schools.

During an election May 3, the voting majority passed a $134.5 million bond issue to fund a number of updates throughout the district.

According to the unofficial results that the Macomb County Clerk’s Office released, there were 5,257 “yes” votes and 4,179 “no” votes.
Several Warren Con staff members and community members gathered on election night to review results, and they cheered when they learned that the bond had passed.

“All of us are deeply grateful with the support and confidence given to us by our community,” acting Superintendent Sharon Irvine said. “Many that showed up on election day felt the same urgency we did. Our schools can stay competitive in Macomb County with a safe and secure environment for the children. I think this came forth in the showing of the bond.”

Now that the bond has passed, school officials are reviewing how the projects will be completed. That includes determining a construction company and an architect for the bond projects.

“We are currently reviewing what needs to be done and how it will be done,” Irvine said.

“As for the next step, we need to determine and prioritize the critical needs in the district, who will do the work for us and an appropriate timeline,” school board President Susan Trombley said in an email. “By voting ‘yes’ and passing this bond, the WCS community has put their trust in us to continue our tradition of safe and secure schools, up-to-date technology, top-of-the-line facilities, and a total of 40 new buses to keep our students safe on the road as well as in the classroom.”

The total of $134.5 million will be issued in two series, and each series will last 20 years. About half of the bonds will be issued in 2016 and the second half in 2019, according to school officials. Under state law, bond proceeds may only be used for capital improvements, and they may not be used to pay administrator, teacher or staff salaries; routine maintenance costs; or other school district operating expenses.

School officials have broken down the $134.5 bond proposal by category. A total of $25.3 million will be used for technology upgrades that include updating the technology infrastructure to support 21st-century learning, enhanced technology in each classroom, mobile learning devices for students, replacement of obsolete computers, and an updated and expanded wireless network.

In addition, $75.1 million will be utilized for districtwide facility and security improvements, to include secure entry vestibules, a security card reader system for doors, security cameras, roofing and flooring replacements, and upgraded fire alarm panels. This portion of the bond includes interior and exterior door replacements; improvements to heating and cooling, plumbing and lighting/electrical systems; energy enhancements; LED exterior light upgrades; and restroom, locker room and cafeteria renovations.

Another $21.2 million will be used for sites, fields and playground improvements that include the repaving of deteriorating parking lots and sidewalks, the replacement of worn fences, and upgrades to playgrounds, athletic fields, courts and tracks.

The remaining $12.9 million will be set aside for the replacement of worn classroom furniture and school buses, and to fund band, athletic and recess equipment.

At a Feb. 3 Board of Education meeting, the school board voted unanimously to place the bond issue on the ballot. School officials said it was time to go out for a bond because of the low interest rates currently on the market.

According to school officials, completion of the bond projects are expected to cost most homeowners in the district $1 per week. By using taxable value data provided to district officials, it was determined that the average taxable value of residential property is approximately $55,000. The average $55,000 at an increase of 0.95 mills for the bond issue is $52.25 per year, or $1 per week.

A bond proposal is developed by the school district and presented to the voters for approval. In the case of the WCS bonds, the district has chosen to seek Michigan School Bond Qualification and Loan Program Qualification.

The bonds are sold in the capital markets at a date determined by the district, a financial advisor and an underwriter. Upon closing, funds generated from the bond sale are deposited in the district’s construction fund and are available to spend for completion of the projects outlined in the bond proposal.

Under the bond issue, property taxes would be levied to provide for the annual bond payments. The first tax levy for the bonds would be issued with the summer 2016 tax collection.