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4 Macomb districts ask voters to OK money for upgrades

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Four school districts in Macomb County will ask voters Tuesday to fund millions in facility upgrades and new technology for aging school buildings.

Lake Shore, Romeo Community and Warren Consolidated schools have bond improvement proposals on the ballot for renovations officials said are long overdue.

Memphis Community Schools has two ballot proposals: a 1 mill sinking fund levy to repair parking lots and upgrade lighting systems and an 18-mill levy for operating expenses that would affect non-homestead property owners.

The sinking fund levy will generate $230,000 annually over five years, co-superintendent Brad Gudme said. That means a $75 yearly tax increase for a home assessed at $150,000.

The 18-mill levy is the equivalent of $1.4 million, or about 16.5 percent of the district’s budget.

The district seeks approval of the 18-mill levy every five years and it amounts to roughly $1,500 per student.

“Without that funding we would have some major cuts to make,” Gudme said.

Warren Consolidated is asking for the largest bond sum in the county — $134.5 million — to fund new technology and infrastructure, security systems, upgraded athletic fields and playgrounds and new furniture and other equipment.

If approved, the bond would require a $52 tax increase for owners of a home with an average assessed value of $100,000.

Sharon Irvine, the district’s human resources director, said Warren Consolidated hasn’t asked voters for a tax increase in 15 years. She said the district wants to meet the demands of a 21st Century learning environment.

The proposal includes “a lot of infrastructure pieces that the district feels are critical to maintaining a high performing district,” Irvine said.

Romeo is seeking approval of an $86 million bond proposal to make renovations to buildings and repurpose some of them.

The district proposes demolishing Romeo Middle School and moving students to the high school building. The high school would be relocated to the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center, according to the district.

The district is also looking to give its athletic facility a facelift.

Superintendent Eric Whitney said the district’s buildings are deteriorating with an average age of 54 years.

If the bond proposal passes, he said, most taxpayers won’t be affected because the district will no longer levy a 1.25 mill sinking fund voters approved in November. Instead, the money raised would pay off the bonds.

That means the 5.25 mill tax rate in Romeo will remain the same, Whitney said.

“This is a way for us to complete a major investment in our facilities without raising the tax burden on our community,” Whitney said.

Lake Shore officials are asking again for voters to approve a $34.9 million bond for facility upgrades and new classroom technology.

Superintendent Joe DiPonio said the millage amounts to a $15 tax increase for the owner of a home assessed at $100,000.

The district wants to spend $25 million on facility upgrades which include new heating and cooling systems, surveillance cameras and repaving parking lots and sidewalks.

Roughly $10 million will go toward new technology, such as classroom devices for students, tools for teachers and wireless internet throughout schools.

Voters rejected a similar bond proposal last November. DiPonio said he believes it was because voters were also asked to support a municipal road proposal during that same election.

“We went back to the drawing board and we have really worked hard at making sure our voters were informed,” DiPonio said.