By Jaclyn McNeal
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
East Lansing residents may be given the opportunity to vote on the renewal of a bond for the East Lansing Public School District worth $50-$62 million.
With the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education set to make final decisions regarding the issues of reconfiguration and funding for the district by this fall, voters could potentially see a proposal to renew an existing bond within the district on the ballot by February 2012.
A special meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 17 at 841 Timblerlane Drive to further discuss these issues and draw up a ballot for voters to decide on.
“The voters of the East Lansing School District are the ones who will make this decision,” said Board President Rima Addiego.
Addiego continued to explain that the district has various funds with limitations on what they can be spent on. What the bond money will be spent on specifically has yet to be determined, but it’s expected that it would be spent primarily on the district’s elementary buildings.
“If the renewal is approved, then the monies must be used precisely as they are written in the resolution of what will be written to the voters,” Addiego explained. “We will make sure we are constructing and using the money precisely as to what was voted on.”
For East Lansing resident Bruce Baker, exactly how the money will be spent will be his deciding factor on the issue.
“I think it would be wrong to not capture these funds especially because it would be a continuation rather than an increase in taxes,” he said. “But I think the question is how it’s going to be spent.”
Baker said he would like to see the Board raise a minimum amount of money to maintain the facilities until the economy improves where the district could embark on significant improvements within their schools.
“Look at the people of East Lansing,” Baker said. “They aren’t adding on to their houses or building new houses. They’re maintaining.”
Baker added that if the School Board decided to close schools to maximize the bond, he would vote against it.
Richard Pugh, director of finance for the East Lansing Public Schools, agreed that the issues of reconfiguration and the bond renewal go hand in hand in decision making.
“We have seven mills outstanding currently for our debt bills,” Pugh explained. “That gradually declined as we paid off our outstanding debt. What the board is considering currently is to maintain it at seven mills and go out for another bond issue for our K-8 buildings. Rather than seeing a decline, it will stay steady at seven.”
“If the board decided to not go to the voters or the voters don’t pass it, they would see their number of mills that the district levies gradually decline over the years, so their property taxes would decline as well,” Pugh explained.
If East Lansing residents don’t pass the renewal, Pugh said that the district’s Sinking Fund could provide relief, but that it’s restricted in its uses and would most likely fund only minor improvements.
“Obviously, if we had a successful bond issue we would be able to upgrade our facilities and the decision will really only impact the general fund if the board decides to consolidate buildings,” Pugh said. “If that’s the direction the board wants to go it will be able to save operating and administrative cost and impact the district for the positive.”
“I have yet to see an argument be made that the current configuration isn’t working or sustainable and that if they were to change it that it would work better,” Eysselinck said. “If it was, ‘Hey, a bond is up and we’re looking to renew these bonds to continue with what we have going on,’ I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”