Niles schools begin push for positive millage vote Sept. 22

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Voter approval of its upcoming Building and Site Improvement Fund millage seems to have become extremely important for Niles Community Schools.
The election, which will determine whether voters here approve 1 mill for five years to pay for building and site improvements of the school district's ageing buildings, is scheduled for Sept. 22.
For a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000, the mill would cost taxpayers an additional $50 each year, school district officials said.
The regular school polling sites of Westside School, the Niles Senior High School and Howard School will be used for the election.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Like other school districts in Michigan, state budget cuts in education has forced Niles Community Schools to limit the school district's maintenance and operation costs to maintain the quality of its educational programs, Law said.
Law thinks it's critical the school district gets a building and site improvement fund to avoid having to start taking money away from the educational programs to maintain its buildings.
He said approval of the millage, which will be the school district's first since the 1990 bond issue, would allow the school district to do several things.
It would allow the district to replace exterior doors that currently represent a security risk to students and faculty; make roof repairs at all of the school district's buildings; upgrading electrical service at the high school to support computer technology; replace flooring in classrooms where the tile is substandard; and improve the Ring Lardner football field for Middle School student games, he said.
Law said a campaign to collect the names of 500 "yes" voters is currently under way by members of the Strategic Planning Committee, which is a diverse citizen-based committee established to define the needs and future goals of the school district.
Law said as of Sept. 2, the group had collected the names of 325 "yes" voters.
The campaign, which is run by Tom Rattenbury, Margaret Phares, Bob Becksfort, Dana Daniels and Bob Schuelke, aims to collect the names of 500 "yes" voters before their campaign deadline of Sept. 12.
He said the school board chose to go for a small 1 mill request over a short time period of five years.
During those five years the school board will do a complete study using an architect to study the buildings and determine what the school district's options are, Law said.
By then, the youngest building in the school building will be 45 and the oldest 70 years old.
Law said many area school districts have already passed building site improvement funds, or have built new buildings.
Those school districts include Buchanan, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg, Dowagiac and Brandywine, who recently passed their $14,2 million dollar bond issue this summer.
Law said the building and site improvement funds are strictly regulated by State law to pay for very specific building and site improvements.
They can't be used for routine maintenance or for employee salaries or benefits.
Taxes from the 1990 bond issue has steadily decreased over the last 10 years and will be taken off in two years time.

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