By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - After reviewing what happened during the last attempt to get a bond proposal passed by voters, the Iron Mountain School District Board of Education is making a second attempt to secure the necessary funds to keep the students in the school district "safe, dry, and warm."
At Monday's board meeting, Supt. Tom Jayne and Board President Marv Harry talked about the plans to put a second bond proposal - asking for less money and less years - before the voters on Feb. 26.
The district is looking for voters to approve a $9.8 million bond proposal for 18 years.
The previous bond proposal, which was defeated by 46 votes in the Aug. 6 primary election, asked for $11 million for 20 years.
It's taken several long meetings between the board, core committee involved in the first bond campaign and representatives of the architecture and construction firms to arrive at this point of being ready to start a second campaign to pass a bond issue.
Harry said that they spent quite a lot of time addressing issues brought up from the first bond vote as well as what the new proposal would look like.
"We haven't gone and asked the voters for this (bond proposal) in 17 years. But what's happening in iron Mountain is not unique - districts across the state are having to ask voters to approve bond proposals to keep their schools going," Harry said.
He added that during the last bond issue that passed, the school administration and previous school boards have worked to refund the bonds when possible and 2.2 mills has been given back in taxes through that process.
"We don't go for this without having a real need - for our students and school. We are asking that the voters support this at a time of extreme need for our school district. We can only hope that come Feb. 26 that the voters will support it," Harry said.
Two of the main concerns from the previous bond request the board has changed in the new bond proposal are that Central School will no longer be torn down and that grades 7-8 will not be in the high school building.
"We hope that, with the approval of the consortium board, Central may be the future place for the Community Schools programs. It's a viable location for them. And grades 7-8 will be housed in the wing above the Central addition where the gym and lunch room are located."
In between the two special board meetings on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, Jayne and Harry also met to go over some additional options to discuss. Some of these included an addition on to the North Elementary School building to house grades K-6 as a single elementary school in the district.
But Jayne added that would cost along with the other renovations needed in the district a whopping $15 million.
"We really felt that location wasn't conductive as a spot to expand on a building. The ticket price was too high and there was really no additional space for parking and playgrounds," Jayne said.
Another idea was to add on to East Elementary School to house grades 4-8. But that addition would cost $5 alone and a total of $13.9 million to do everything needed in the district.
A third alternative looked at was to renovate Central School for grades 4-8 making the rooms larger and updating them as well as a new playground. "But when we looked at that, we found it would be $10.6 million for everything in the district with that addition. We also looked back at our notes and original surveys and the Central building, by everyone's responses, was rated the lease efficient building in the district," Jayne said.
The board looked at the pros and cons of all the different alternatives and realized that any additions on to buildings would be another hurdle to overcome with voters.
"It's hard to ask the voters to support a building addition when we have existing space that is not being utilized efficiently," Jayne added.
Asking for $9.5 mills over 18 years would mean that the millage would be from 2013-2031. And the average millage over that 18 year span would be 3.8 mills - exactly where the millage is today. Although there will be some increases originally during the first few years when the bond is passed, the overall average is 3.8.
The district's original bond will expire in 2021 and this new bond would expand that by 10 years.
The plan for this bond proposal would be that the high school students in grades 9-12 remain at the high school; middle school students in grades 7-8 would in the Central School addition; grades 4-6 at East Elementary School; and students in early kindergarten through the third grade at North Elementary School.
"We are still looking at what's needed to keep our buildings safe, warm and dry as well as providing needed technology. We are looking at new heating, replacing some windows, getting energy efficient lighting and securing our buildings so they are safer for our students," Jayne said.
Another idea being explored is to consolidate space by moving the industrial arts center to A floor in the high school along with the art program to have one area where both those programs could be located. The industrial arts building, located across from the administration building, is a 12,000 square foot facility.
"We've been talking with Bay College and Bruce Orttenburger of the Dickinson Area Partnership, about possibly writing a grant to utilize that space for veterans and retraining veterans as well as the tech ed field at Bay. That would be one way to help the entire community," Jayne said.
"We continue to experience declining enrollments and a decrease in state funding for schools. And that's why school districts have to go this route in order to make improvements to their districts," Harry said.
A special school board meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 5:30 p.m. to approve the new bond language. That language has then to be sent to the state for approval before the school district officials get put it on the ballot.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.