KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — On May 8, voters will be asked to approve the largest bond issue in the history of Kalamazoo Public Schools.
The district is asking for $96.7 million dollars to update buildings and equipment.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have passed the bonds for a number of years, and our citizens have been very supportive of our schools,” said Dr. Michael Rice, superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools.
However, this is the largest bond request ever brought to KPS voters.
“It’s a little misleading, because, of course, every year it’s a little bit more expensive to do capital projects,” Rice said. “And so (as) the costs of the projects increase, the value of the dollar decreases.”
If approved, 46 percent of the money would go toward replacing outdated equipment, like roofs, boilers, parking lots, lighting, windows and buses. About 27 percent of the total bond would fund replacing Edison Environmental Science Academy.
“At some point, tick-tock goes the clock,” Rice said. “The building was never (built) with modern amenities in mind. It was never meant to be a building with computers. It was never meant to be a building with air conditioning.”
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The rest of the bond money would pay for improved school security, an addition to Phoenix High School and a districtwide kitchen.
If voters reject the bond, Rice says some projects would still be paid for out of the general fund, reducing money available to pay teachers, administrators and support staff.
“So, a roof in the general fund would crowd out your staffing from the general fund,” said Rice.
Other projects wouldn’t happen at all.
“So, it is true that you don’t necessarily value a good roof until it ceases to be a good roof,” Rice explained. “But I would argue that if you have the latter case, kids see it for what it is, which is an absence of caring about their school setting.”
Rice says the proposed school bond is about more than equipment and buildings.
“Well, I think the benefit of strong schools is important for a property owner, it’s important for a parent or grandparent, it’s important for a citizen,” he said. “Generally, the strength of your schools drives not just the strength of your property value but also the strength of your community.”
If approved, the proposal would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $62.50 per year.