By Bill Petzold
CARO — The Caro Community Schools Board of Education began discussion Monday of a proposed bond campaign. Superintendent Bruce Nelson said that a list of necessary improvements, repairs and additions to school property has been compiled with the help of Caro staff and faculty.
Nelson said the earliest voters could expect to see a bond proposal on the ballot would be August 2014. Much discussion will transpire between now and then, with public input being a crucial component of any bond issue that may be offered to voters. A special meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 29 to discuss the bond process.
Nelson said it is important to develop a proposal that the board, school staff and parents find acceptable. The list of projects presented Monday night is basically a “wish list,” what Nelson referred to as only “gathered information.”
“How much of this sheet is ‘Dreamville,’ and how much of it is (practical)?” board president John Forshee asked.
“I think one can honestly say that none of it’s ‘Dreamville,’ but all of it has shades of ‘Dreamville,’” Nelson replied. “For example, there is an auditorium (listed). Do we need an auditorium? I think the community would benefit from an auditorium, but that’s probably the one closest to a deep slumber dream. We’ve got a second high school gym (on the list). That’s probably in that category as well. Is the need there? Yes, the need is there in terms of looking at our facilities use.”
“Some of it’s structural, some of it’s technology, some of it’s infrastructure — things we need to repair or upgrade — and some of it’s new, for example new construction. The idea of considering doing a bond campaign is to say, ‘Well let’s put everything out that we think in the next five to eight years might be out there, and then take into consideration is this reasonable? What’s the
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cost? What would be the millage that we would need to accomplish this?’ ”
Preliminary figures stated by Nelson at the meeting were for $7.375 million in total school improvements. Nelson said that one mill generates $5.1 million, so voters would be looking at a 1.5 mill proposal for 10 years to make all of the improvements and investments listed, including a proposed purchase of enough Apple iPad computers to allow Caro students to each have their own device.
“The first question I need the board to answer is … whether this is something that we want to pursue, or whether we say, ‘Well, it’s interesting, but for whatever reason — it’s not the time, it’s not the place, there’s lots of reasons — this is something we should consider at a different time,’ ” Nelson said.
“I would like to see us move forward,” board member Dean Tomlinson said, noting he’d like to see the board work to make the total cost to tax payers “a little more affordable.”
Board member Henry Knier said it’s important to keep the school’s primary mission at the center of the bond discussions.
“(We need to ask) what’s out there that improves student achievement?” Knier said. “That’s our goal. If it doesn’t help, it’s not worth it.”
In other action:
• The board listened to an audit report from CPAs Valerie Hartel and Dave Ondrajka of Anderson, Tuckey, Bernhardt and Doran, PC that showed minor increases in the fund balance.
“We can see the comparisons from last year,” Ondrajka said. “Assets were up $880,000, liabilities only up 183,000, so that netted you a gain in fund balance of nearly 700,000 this past year. … Revenues were up and your expenses were down, so that created your large net change in fund balance.”
• Director of services Bill Pouliot said that the new heat exchanger has been installed in the Caro High School swimming pool, and that the water temperature should be back between 78 and 80 degrees in a couple days.
• Superintendent Nelson gave a brief demonstration of the online Munetrix (www.munetrix.com) system, which provides financial information for public organizations like schools and municipalities.
Bill Petzold is the editor of the Tuscola County Advertiser. He can be reached at email@example.com.