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Published: Thursday, 3/4/2004

Monroe: District seeks $83 million bond issue

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Voters across Monroe County s biggest school system will go to the polls Saturday to decide the fate of an $83 million bond issue that school officials say is needed to bring its aging buildings back into shape.

Monroe Public Schools 30-year bond issue, which would cost an average of $223 each year for the owner of a home with $100,000 assessed value, would pay for renovations to the district s 13 school buildings and other facilities, superintendent David Taylor said.

It would require an average of 2.23 mills a year to retire the bond, but would cost the owners of a home with $100,000 in assessed valuation an additional 2.95 mills, or $295, in the first year of the bond issue s collection.

If voters approve the bond request, about $46 million of the bond money will pay for infrastructure improvements such as roofing, windows, electrical rewiring, and improved heating and cooling systems.

The district would like to spend another $24 million on building additions and new furniture, $8 million on a pool and fitness room for Monroe High School, and $4.4 million on safety improvements such as asbestos abatement and emergency lighting.

If district voters approve Saturday s request, “we could being the design phase of everything right away,” Mr. Taylor said. “By the fall, we could actually be starting some projects, and by the spring of 2005, we would really get going.”

It would take between three and four years for all of the projects to be completed, Mr. Taylor said, with “most of the major stuff” worked on over the summer so as to minimize its impact on students and their classes.

No schools would be closed during the renovation projects.

The youngest of Monroe Public School s 13 buildings opened in 1975, and the oldest turns 85 years old this year.

However, some of the construction being proposed includes 13 additional classrooms for Cantrick Middle School to help balance its population out with the much-larger Monroe Middle School.

The district originally enlisted the help of a community-based committee to recommend more than $100 million in requested improvements, but their suggestions were winnowed down to the $83 million request.

A bond issue is the only way under Michigan s system of educational funding for a school district to do large capital improvement projects. Bedford and Dundee are the only districts in Monroe County to have passed bond issues previously.

Mr. Taylor said that although he and other district officials are concerned about asking for a tax increase in a down economy, approving the measure now could mean substantial savings over the long run on the interest the district must pay on the debt.

“The economy certainly has to be a consideration, but one of the things we really did consider was the timing.

It s a good time to [request the bond issue] because the bond market has been so hot recently, and interest rates are low,” the superintendent said.

Voters may cast their ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. at one of two precincts in the school district.

Those voters who live north of the River Raisin may vote at the school s administration building at 1275 North Macomb St.

Those who live south of the river may cast their ballots at Custer School on Albain Road in Monroe Charter Township.



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