2016-12-22 / Front Page

S-B moves toward center

$14.2 million bond needed for project
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

The Suttons Bay Board of Education has taken a definitive step toward building and operating a $14.2 million community recreation center.

Board members voted 5-1 Monday to approve an application for “preliminary qualifications of bonds,” which would authorize an election needed to tap property owners for funds to build a recreation center in place of the former middle school wing on the north end of campus.

Trustee Kim Eike cast the lone “no” vote.

“A rec center is a wonderful idea. I just don’t necessarily think the school district is the best organization to undertake it,” Eike said. “It doesn’t strike me as that close to our mission as a school district.”

Trustee Bob Potvin, who did not seek re-election, was hesitant to act on the application. His term concludes Dec. 31.

“It gives me pause voting on a proposal when we know there’s going to be three new members on the board next month,” Potvin said. “‘Welcome new board, here’s your first millage issue.’”

Eike said passage of the proposal isn’t a board function.

“It isn’t necessarily the board that has to take leadership in passing the two millage requests,” he said. “Certainly other citizens will get involved in that process.”

None of the new board members were in attendance Monday night.

No comment on the project was offered by the six-member audience at the meeting. And no other School Board member spoke about the center.

Approval of the application sets in place a timetable to put a $14.2 million bond proposal before voters in May.

“From this point the proposal goes to the Department of Treasury for 30 days then back to our attorney who will prepare ballot language to act on at our February meeting,” business manager LeAnn Eustice explained.

The bond would cover demolition of a portion of the former middle school wing and construction of a 19,000 square-foot addition that would include “lap” and “recreation” pools, pickleball court, exercise room, community room and teen activity room.

Included in the pre-qualification application to the state was information about trends in taxable property values. The average 5-year growth in taxable property value is listed at 1.08 percent; the 20-year rate is 4.8 percent.

Also part of the application is a 5-year enrollment projection, compiled by a Kalamazoo architectural firm, that calls for a 16.29 percent net increase in enrollment through the 2020-2021 school year, from 528 to 614.

This includes both traditional students attending classes in Suttons Bay and virtual students receiving instruction via the Internet.

“The state wants to make sure we have students to use this space,” Superintendent Chris Nelson said.

The same report states that five years ago, Suttons Bay’s enrollment was 684.

As proposed, the millage rate for the first-year payment would be 2.63 mills. That plus the 1.32 mills being collected for a bond issue approved earlier this year for technology and transportation would bring the bond tax rate to 3.95 mills.

However, an additional recreation millage of .75 mills will also be needed to run the facility, bringing the total for construction and operations to 4.70 mills.

The average millage over the term of the 15-year bond is 2.64.

If approved, property owners would pay $264 for every $100,000 in taxable value, Eustice said.

Board members had hoped to keep the tax rate required to build and operate the center along with the technology millage at or below 4.04 mills. That level represents the amount billed by property owners to pay off a bond for construction of the high school. That bond has expired.

Voters in May approved a new bond for a host of district needs, including technology improvements and buses.

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