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Education

Bedford school leaders working to place $35M bond issue on November ballot

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    The Bedford Schools board of education has chosen five finalists for the superintendent job.

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    Bedford Schools Superintendent Carl Shultz

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TEMPERANCE — Bedford Schools is moving forward with a proposed $35 million bond issue for the November ballot.

Superintendent Carl Shultz traveled to Lansing on Tuesday for a prequalification meeting with the Michigan Department of Treasury. The district is seeking the bond under a state program that helps schools get a better interest rate by using the state’s credit rating.

“As of today, it looked very strong,” Mr. Shultz said. “I have no doubt whatsoever that we will prequalify.”

The proposed 20-year, three-month bond would supply about $34,380,000 for infrastructure, maintenance, and security upgrades, plus additional funds for associated financing costs. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an estimated $8.29 per month or $99.50 annually.

“All of the things we’re asking for are immediate, critical needs for the district. We don’t have the money in our general fund budget to do the things we need to do,” the superintendent said. “We have to pass this. We don’t really have another option.”

Mr. Shultz said the district has been maintaining its properties as much as possible, but the facilities are outdated and need significant upgrades. Continuing to spend limited funds on stop-gap repairs is no longer sustainable.

“When you’re always doing that, you can’t put money away and save,” he said. “You’re always piecemealing projects.”

He said replacing just one of several possible roofs at a cost of at least $1 million could easily make the district insolvent.

The proposed slate of projects includes new roofing, plumbing upgrades, concrete and drainage work, and safety improvements like new windows and doors and upgraded security and fire-suppression systems.

“We’re not building anything new. We’re replacing a lot of the systems that are well past their usable life,” Mr. Shultz said.

The bond would also cover the installation of air conditioning and proper ventilation throughout the district. Only two areas — Monroe Road Elementary and a newer section of the high school — have air conditioning and both systems are failing, Mr. Shultz said. Students and staff struggle to cope as school years extend further into the season.

“It’s so hot in our buildings it’s not conducive to learning, and it’s dangerous, quite frankly,” Mr. Shultz said. “Temperatures can easily get to 90, 95, or higher.”

A larger proposed bond issue in 2014 failed, which Mr. Shultz said was in part because the district included a number of non-critical projects. He is hopeful this new attempt will be successful, particularly after two public forums last week.

“Overall, the public has been very supportive,” he said. “They understand we have needs. They appreciate that we’re not asking for the world; it’s a very realistic approach. We’re not adding frills. There’s nothing shiny in this bond.”

Mr. Shultz said the district should hear back from the state in a few weeks. The board of education will need to approve its application for prequalification in late July, then adopt a resolution in August to place the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Additional details about the proposed bond are available on the district’s website, bedford.k12.mi.us.

Contact Alexandra Mester at: amester@theblade.com419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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