Carson City-Crystal school bond vote set for Tuesday


By Cory Smith • Last Updated 8:23 am on Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Students exit the Carson City-Crystal Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School complex after school ends Wednesday afternoon. A vote for a millage extension on Tuesday would give nearly $11 million to Carson City-Crystal Area Schools, allowing for upgrades and renovations to buildings, technology and transportation.

 

CARSON CITY — On Tuesday, voters within the Carson City-Crystal Area Schools district will decide whether the district will receive a major overhaul to the tune of nearly $11 million in the form of a bond proposal.

Voters will decide if that bond proposal, which would provide security and technology upgrades and transportation and facility improvements, is worth extending a current debt millage of 4.2 mills for another 15 years and nine months, a decision that would generate $10,990,000 for the district.

The millage extension would not increase the school district’s current debt millage.

“By doing this and addressing all of these needs we’re going to be able to give our children in our communities a top-notch learning environment, comparable to the schools that we compete with,” said Board of Education Vice President Ben Adkins. “This is a choice for change, the community has to choose to change the perception of our school district. To do that, you have to go out and vote.”

After several months of going door-to-door, leading community forums and hosting several meetings, school administrators and school board members are hoping they’ve provided enough information to the public to allow the voters to make an informed and educated decision at the polls.

“I think we’ve met that goal, as our mantra has been, as established by our bond committee, to present the information and answer any and all questions and let the voters decide,” said Superintendent Kevin Murphy.

According to Murphy, after a facility study and several community listening sessions throughout the school district, a plan was compiled and reduced to the most essential items and then unanimously approved by the school board to be placed on the ballot.

“The proposal can be accomplished with no increase to our current debt millage rate,” Murphy said. “The proposal will address important items such as safety and security, technology improvements, energy savings, consolidating resources, improving classrooms and purchasing buses.”

Approximately $5,242,000 in upgrades and renovation would take place at Carson City-Crystal Lower Elementary School and $4,792,000 would occur at the Carson City-Crystal Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School complex building.

Approximately $1 million generated from the bond would be devoted to technology upgrades, creating a one-to-one computer to student ratio, providing one computer per student on average, as opposed to the current system that features computer labs that do not currently meet the needs of the schools.

According to Murphy, without the bond, the technology upgrades will not be possible.

“That’s going to be a major shift, going from a teacher-centered environment to a student-driven instructional model,” Murphy said. “We can’t just create that because we don’t have the infrastructure to do that. We’d fail miserably and it would crash our system. (The bond) would set us up for the longterm.”

As far as safety is concerned throughout the district, Adkins said the bond would provide several upgrades that the board sees as necessary.
“Safetywise, it puts us to the point where we have secure entrances for all three levels, the elementaries, middle school and high school,” he said.

According to Adkins, the bond proposal would provide secure vestibules at the entrances to each school, something the district currently lacks. He said a move of the administration offices to the Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School complex building would also provide more security.

Adkins stressed there are many other needs that would be addressed with the approval of the bond, including leaks and structural issues at the Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School Complex building.

If the bond does not pass, Murphy said the district will likely have to implement cuts in the near future to open up funds to take care of items discovered in the district’s “needs assessment,” such as the leaks and structural issues.

“If it doesn’t pass, it would impact us greatly and create hardships for our district,” Murphy said. “We are very concerned about our facilities. We’d have to revisit the issues. We’re not going to get $10 million out of our budget, as our yearly budget is about $8 million.”

Murphy said the items discovered in the needs assessment, unlike the improvements that the bond will provide, are “needs, not wants,” and will have to be solved whether the bond passes or not.

“We would need a deep ‘plan B’ to hit those items in that needs assessment,” Murphy said. “They are not going to go away, they are actually going to deepen and get worse for us. It’s a scary proposition. If If we don’t have the money, we’ll have to make cuts to get the money to make the fixes that we need. Even before we talk about the advantages of the bond, the needs assessment is not going away.”

Murphy stressed that the bond was designed to include both the Lower Elementary School and the Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School complex building to create a proper learning environment pre-K though 12.

“We don’t want a drop-off from one building to the next,” he said. “That’s why we went with both buildings, to make sure all of our students, pre-K through 12, will receive the benefits.”

Murphy said he hopes Tuesday’s voter turnout will be higher than average for a special election.

“I’m hopeful that we have a high turnout, hopefully unprecedented,” he said. “That would validate our mission, that we wanted to inform everyone and that they needed to vote.”

May Vote
The Daily News is previewing the major issues for the May 6 election:
Wednesday: Montcalm County Commission on Aging millage
Thursday: Montcalm County 911 surcharge renewal
Today: Carson City-Crystal Area Schools bond proposal
Saturday: Montcalm Area Intermediate School District special education millage

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