Brandywine to host final bond proposal forum April 30

Published 2:29 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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NILES — The final community forum about the Brandywine school district’s zero millage increase bond proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 in the Brandywine Middle/High School media center, Superintendent Travis Walker said during Monday’s Brandywine Board of Education meeting.

“I hope we can get more people out to the forum,” Walker said. “We want to make sure we have an informed voter base for the May 7 election for the zero mill increase bond issue.”

Voters in the Brandywine school district will go to the polls May 7 to decide the fate of the bond issue proposal. If approved by voters, the district’s current 3.9 mill debt levy will be extended out 18 years and bring in $22 million to the district.

The bulk of the projects are scheduled to be done at the middle/high school with the Career Technical Education addition costing up to $6.75 million, the new performing arts center up to $9.5 million and the renovation of the existing CTE area up to $650,000. Outdoors, there will be a new baseball field, parking lot improvements and a resurfaced track.

The funds raised with the bond will pay for 11 projects in all, including new secured entries at all three district schools and a gym addition at Merritt Elementary. The work would be done in stages with the CTE addition being done first and all the work completed by the summer of 2027.

At Monday’s board meeting, Walker admitted he’s a little worried that he hasn’t heard or seen anything negative about the proposed bond issue. “I hope I’m working myself up for nothing,” he said.

“I’ve seen some intentional no campaigns in other communities, even for sinking funds and slight millage increases,” he said. “We are not even getting negative comments on Facebook, it’s either been positive or quiet.”

Walker did acknowledge that history shows there has been a 90 percent success rate for zero percent increase millage proposals. “That very well could be part of it,” he said. “Even with that, you usually hear some negativity.”

“Social media is full of negativity and we’re not seeing that,” he said. “We’re not seeing that and there could be several reasons why we’re not seeing it. I hope it’s a good sign. A school district north of us of about the same size and in same boat, passed their proposal with 65 percent voting yes.”

Monday’s school board meeting also featured board approval of putting the district’s general operating millage renewal on non-homestead properties on the August ballot. The district is asking voters to approve the current millage for a period of eight years.

He said the non-homestead millage is necessary for the district to operate, providing an additional $2.2 million in revenue and allowing the district to collect the full amount of student funding provided by the state. He said the current per pupil state aid foundation grant amount of $9,608 assumes that the local district is collecting the non-homestead levy.

Walker said the district will again ask for a 20.5 mill levy although the maximum that can be levied on non-homestead properties such as second homes, rental properties and businesses is 18 mills. The district asks for a higher millage to offset any potential Headlee rollback.

Board President Elaine McKee suggested that the information be provided to the bond advocacy committee for the May 7 election in order to be able to answer any questions people may have.

“I’ve been transparent that the operating millage expires within the year and the sinking fund millage expires within next two years,” Walker said. “We’re making sure people realize these are all different.”

The board meeting also featured several recognitions. Walker recognized Assistant Principal Week which was April 1-5, Paraprofessional Day which was April 3, School Bus Drivers’ Appreciation Day which is April 23 and Administrative Assistant Day which is April 24.

Board members also recognized the high school boys and girls basketball teams for their successful runs this year. The boys were the state champions and the girls were runners-up to the state champions.

Walker reiterated the remarks he made at a community celebration over the weekend about the boys basketball team. “Their team will live in our district forever,” he said. “What they did was something we sort of expected of them but come March, it takes only one game to knock you out of the tournament.”

Board members also acknowledged teacher Debbie Carew was a semi-finalist for Regional Teacher of the Year. Walker noted that it is a lengthy application process with teachers having to submit videos and essays.

In other action, board members heard a report on the district’s social studies curriculum including all the work teachers do to make sure students learn content and meet state standards. Assistant Superintendent Amanda Lezotte noted that teachers hare collaborated to make sure students receive information beyond the textbooks that promote critical thinking.

Board members accepted the retirement of Information Services Director Doug Fox, had a first reading of policy updates and approved a second budget amendment for the year.