Brandywine bond proposal passes

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — Voters in the Brandywine Community Schools district voted to approve a $22 million bond issue proposal on Tuesday.

Residents in Berrien and southwest Cass Counties voted on the millage. According to unofficial ballot results from, with 100 percent of precincts reporting in Berrien and Cass Counties, there were 808 voters who supported the millage and 405 who voted no. The millage passed by 403 votes for a 67 percent approval rating.

With the passing of the proposal, additions for a new performing arts center and career technical education will be on the way at Brandywine Middle/High School as well as a new baseball field, track resurfacing and more will be coming to the district.

The bond issue will not raise people’s taxes but will extend the current debt millage out into the future for another 18 years. The work is expected to be done in stages with everything done by the summer of 2027.

At the middle/high school, the CTE addition will cost up to $6.75 million and the new performing arts center up to $9.5 million. Another $650,000 will be spent on renovating the existing CTE area.

Currently, the district has no dedicated space for the performing arts with choir, band and theater rehearsals and performances taking place in school gymnasiums which don’t have the acoustics or set up to adequately show off students’ talents.

While the middle/high school does have a dedicated CTE space at present, that space is not ADA compliant and is not large enough to allow for growth in the skilled trades. The district currently hosts machine shop, auto shop, cabinet making and millwork programs for south county students and could offer more if the bond issue is approved.

The campus around the middle/high school will see upgrades as well. Plans call for a new relocated baseball field, new field turf at the football/soccer field, resurfacing the track and making parking lot improvements, all at a cost of up to $2.55 million.

The current baseball field is not ADA compliant which keeps the district from hosting MHSAA tournament events. The track is near the end of its useful life and needs repairs to prevent athlete injuries.

The major project at Merritt Elementary will be a gym addition which would solve the operational issue of the gym and cafeteria being in the same space. The gym addition is estimated to cost up to $1.7 million. Merritt, Brandywine Elementary and Brandywine Middle/High School will all get secured entries which will cost up to $275,000 each.

School district officials said the zero mill increase renewal will not change the amount of taxes people pay and that people will actually see their taxes go down over time. The owner of a $100,000 home with a $50,000 state equalized value will initially pay $195 a year which is the same as it is now.

The 3.9 mill levy is expected to continue through 2031 at which time the millage rate will go down. Overall, an average millage levy of 2.85 mills is needed to retire the bond over the 18 years. The 2.85 mill levy averages out to $142.50 a year for that same homeowner.