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Published: Friday, 4/23/2010

Blissfield schools seeking bond issue


BLISSFIELD, Mich. - Blissfield school officials are returning to the ballot May 4 with a reduced millage request to finance construction at three buildings.

Voters in the Lenawee County district are being asked to support a 1.49-mill bond issue to leverage $8 million in federal stimulus money for energy-efficiency upgrades, including geo-thermal heating and cooling systems at two schools. If approved, the zero-percent interest bonds would be paid back with a 15-year property tax.

A 2.49-mill bond proposal was narrowly defeated in February by voters. The request would have raised nearly $12 million and have been repaid over 15 years.

Superintendent Scott Moellenberndt said the Board of Education cut about $3.1 million from the earlier proposal after the February defeat.

Because the filing deadline for the school election was the same day as the February election, the board had approved putting the 2.49-mill tax issue on the May ballot as a precaution.

The board has vowed to return the $3.1 million to property owners by acting on a resolution that would permanently reduce the sinking-fund millage from 1.75 mills to 1 mill.

"The Board of Education took action at their March meeting to scale back and utilize existing sinking-fund dollars. In reality it is reducing the number of mills being voted on and the tax increase being absorbed by property owners," he said.

Construction of a cafetorium with foldable bleachers at the high school, a school bus driveway loop, landscaping, monument signs, and two classrooms were removed from the project. "These were not viewed as necessities," Mr. Moellenberndt said.

However, the district wants to proceed with replacing aging boiler systems at the high school and elementary with geothermal heating and adding air conditioning at the middle school. Classroom upgrades, furniture, carpeting, and painting also would be done. "If we are going to maintain 30 to 50-year-old buildings, these are things that need to be done. The improvements we are talking about now are truly essentials," he said.

Blissfield Community Schools received approval last summer to borrow up to $15 million through the Qualified School Construction Bond program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The program became available after a survey of residents found support for new construction and renovation of existing buildings.

One mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of taxable property. A 1.49-mill levy will cost owners of a $130,000 home with a taxable value of $65,000 about $96 per year in additional taxes.

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