Sweeney: Brandywine’s future hinges on June 9 vote

By By JOANNA ARNETT / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- It's no secret that Brandywine Public Schools are pleading with the community they serve to support a bond issue with their vote on June 9 to help the school stay what it always has been -- a little community of its own.
What people may not know are the details surrounding this issue and what they can do to help out.
The major points of the bond issue are these:
If the bond passes, Sweeney said, athletic needs are being addressed by the Brandywine Foundation and will be matched by contributions from the school board.
The bond issue is the method that is currently in place in the State of Michigan to fund major building improvements; there is no other way to get the money needed, he said.
What the bond issue will fund
Based on the recommendations of the Facilities Committee and the Brandywine Board of Education, here are the specifics of the renovations for each building:
All facilities will have handicapped accessibility and all portable classrooms will be eliminated.
Despite rumors and implications of the contrary, Sweeney assures that the plan he and the Board of Education have put together is financially prudent and educationally focused.
The average annual millage amount is projected to be 3.77 mills, which equals to less than a pack of cigarettes or cost of fast food per day.
The Board set a maximum annual millage amount to be no greater than 4.85 mills. Brandywine is the only district out of the surrounding 23 to not have debt. If passed, home values will very likely go up, as they often do when a school district is desirable and in high demand, Sweeney said.
For those senior citizens worrying about the effect on them, Sweeney said they may be eligible for the Michigan Homestead Property Tax credit if your household income is less than $82,650. For more information, see your tax advisor, he said.
The tax credit could directly affect Brandywine's increase and in some cases mean no increase in taxes. Property taxes are fully deductible on federal income returns and eligible for the property tax credit on Michigan income tax returns.
If the bond fails, Brandywine will not immediately merge with another district. However, school board officials will most likely have to explore that option in an effort to provide students with safe, functional facilities and to meet their education needs.
If it passes, Sweeney projected construction to begin this coming fall.
One of the brightest aspects of the bond is the overhaul of the Science and Technology Labs. Previously, students wishing to work in higher degrees of science and technology have had to do apprentice work or take their courses elsewhere, such as Lake Michigan College. With the new labs, students can stay at Brandywine and get the same opportunities as everyone else.
Earlier in the school year, many may have gotten a glimpse of work being done on Brandywine Elementary and Merritt.
That work was funded by QZAB (Qualified Zone Academy Bonds), a little-known debt instrument for school finance, authorized by the Tax Payer Relief Act in 1997 by the United States Congress. It allows qualifying schools and/or communities to borrow at little or no interest.
In Brandywine's case, interest is put on hold for 16 years. It also means that out of the $2 million borrowed for each building, only $1.6 million has to paid back.
Sweeney emphasized again and again the dire need of community 'Yes' votes.
An information packet detailing the changes proposed in the bond issue are available at the Bell Education Center, 1830 S. Third Street
For more information about the bond issue, call (269) 470-0194 or visit www.brandywinebrightfuture.com.

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