By Griffin Wasik
Ingham County Chronicle Staff Reporter
The Mason Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the Facilities Improvement Steering Committee to place a $79,845,000 bond on the May 3, ballot, according to a school board meeting.
If approved, the bond would fund facility improvements, security upgrades, and new technology at all school buildings in the district, according to discussions at meeting.
Money from the bond would buy new computers and tablets for students to use for educational purposes, according to meeting officials.
“This has a $4.5 million investment in technology over nine years,” Mason Public Schools District Superintendent Ronald Drzewicki said. “It will allow us to provide more 21st century environments technology driven. This will allow us to provide more devices at the hands of our students and teachers. We will also improve our infrastructure and wireless internet capacity.”
If approved, the millage rate would increase to 6.85 mills, which is still one of the lowest rates in Ingham County, according to officials at the meeting.
Homeowners would approximately have to pay $13 more per month for every $100,000 in market value of their home, according to officials at the meeting.
The bond will address the overcrowding issue in the district by building a new fourth/fifth grade building. Today, the district’s elementary schools average 484 students, but were designed for an average of 405 students, according to officials at the meeting.
“The new four/five grade building will immediately release the overcrowding in the elementary schools,” Drzewicki said. “It will take the fourth- and fifth-graders of the current kindergarten through fifth grade buildings and allow those buildings to breathe. There will be more space for classrooms and less traffic because the fourth- and fifth-graders will be going to the four/five building.”
Steele Elementary School will receive new classrooms and a gymnasium, according to officials at the meeting.
“Steele Elementary School is one of our oldest elementary schools,” Drzewicki said. “It was built in 1955 and what will happen is a new addition will be built onto the 1997 renovation. That new addition will contain classrooms and a small gymnasium. Then, we will demolish the 1955 building.”
Renovations at the middle school and high school would create new classes and improve extracurricular activities, according to officials at the meeting.
“Our middle and high school will be improved by the addition and strengthening of wood shop, robotics, fine arts, performing arts, and athletics,” Drzewicki said.
Every building would see an increase in plumbing, mechanical, and electrical upgrades, according to officials at the meeting.
Safety and security would be improved, according to officials at the meeting.
“We will have secure entry vestibules at all of our buildings. We will have improved playgrounds and improved flow of parking and student drop offs,” Drzewicki said.
The school district would improve school buses and make more bus routes, according to officials at the meeting.
“Typically, a school district will issue a bond to raise money to fund operations,” Stephen Schiestel, a finance professor who specializes in investing at Michigan State University, said. “They can also build a building or purchase major expenditures, such as buses. The district’s finance director is responsible for raising the funds.”
In order to raise large funds for this project, the board engages a commercial bank or investment bank to structure either a bank loan or issue bonds to investors, Schiestel said.
“Interest rates play an important role in fixed-income investing,” Schiestel said. “There is an inverse relationship between rates and price. This is a fundamental concept that all investors and issuers must keep in mind.”
School bonds can only be used for improvements for the school. Bonds cannot be used for salaries, according to officials at the meeting.
Laura Fenger, secretary of the Mason School Board, said this proposal started with the superintendent doing an analysis.
“Superintendent Ronald Drzewicki worked with community members and looked into what needs the district has,” Fenger said. “I think this is a very good thing. Mason Public Schools is an excellent district, which has a lot to offer. Easing the overcrowding in our elementary schools, as well as upgrading our technology and aging buildings, will allow us to continue to provide an excellent education to our students.”