TECUMSEH — And all-out marketing effort has been in full effect for a couple of months now to get the information out about the $75 million bond issue Tecumseh Public Schools has put on a May 3 special election ballot.
The district’s Facebook page is lit up with information on how the bond will not increase the current 7.2 mills residents pay, rather it would extend it through 2053.
Throughout March and April, Superintendent Rick Hilderley held informational breakfasts, snack get-togethers and meetings with residents to explain the merits of the capital improvement projects that will take place if the issue passes.
The district’s director of communications, Vic Pratt, has been working almost full time on the project and he has been aided by the district’s architecture firm for the project, TMP Architecture of Bloomfield Hills, and its business owner’s representative, Plante Moran CRESA of Bloomfield Hills .
While the district cannot market the project in terms of telling voters where to stand on the issue, there is a small community organization called “Say Yes to Tecumseh” that is pushing voters in the direction of a yes vote.
“We’re really focused on that generation of kids that will be really able to take advantage of this, but more importantly I think it’s important even for folks like me particularly who have kids that have already been through school,” George Lesko, Say Yes volunteer, said. “I think it’s important for them to understand that really good schools really do mean keeping property values up, our schools, our businesses, all of those things. Everything revolves around the school system.”
The district’s marketing campaign is more about getting the information out.
“All we’re doing is providing the information, the facts so to speak — what’s going to be built, where the money is going to be spent, how’s it going to be spent,” Greg Van Kirk, partner at Plante Moran CRESA, said.
Here are the features of the bond program that are listed in the fact sheet on the district’s website:
New lower/upper elementary school
- The four elementary schools will be consolidated into one.
- New 135,000-square-foot PK-4 elementary school for 1,100 students at the Tecumseh Acres location.
- Modern learning environments to support flexible, collaborative and hands-on learning opportunities.
- Specialized spaces for art, music, physical education and dining.
- Flexible furniture.
- Instructional technology.
- Teacher workstations.
- Reconfigured auto and bus dropoffs with new staff and visitor parking areas.
- Student physical education playgrounds and new playgrounds.
- Security systems, camera/buzzer systems and additional security cameras.
- Enhanced site features.
- New elementary site will have access from four different streets.
- Complete separation between cars and buses.
- Parents’ and visitors’ loop and parking area off Patterson and Adrian streets.
- One-way driveways with passing lane to ease traffic flow.
- Bus access and exit off South Union Street.
- Separate kindergarten driveway, parking area and service drive off Spafford Street.
- New staff and visitor parking areas.
- Additional event parking and driveway use for events.
Tecumseh Middle School
- New safe and secure entry.
- New flexible furniture.
- New instructional technology.
- Media center remodeling.
- Office remodeling.
- New driveways, parking lots and playground.
- Remodeling of the swimming pool.
- New security systems, camera/buzzer systems and additional security cameras.
Tecumseh High School
- New auxiliary gym.
- New music room.
- Office remodeling.
- New flexible furniture.
- Upgrade security systems, camera/buzzer systems and additional security cameras.
- Upgrades to instructional technology.
- New outdoor team/locker rooms.
- New turf field.
- Relocate play area.
- New athletic equipment.
The bond language is also on the district’s website.
The plan is to demolish the current four elementary buildings. The district has budgeted in the $75 million proposal nearly $3 million for demolition.
“There could be opportunities where we save money on the demo budget and reroute the funds elsewhere,” Pratt said in an email. ‘No matter what, Tecumseh Acres will be torn down. But say a building like Sutton could be sold or handed over to the LISD (Lenawee Intermediate School District). Next door to Sutton ELC (Early Learning Center) is the Milton C. Porter Education Center. We know the ISD is always looking for space. So that could be a route we go, which would save on demo costs. We could obviously sell all of the properties to a developer, saving more costs for us. All of those options will be explored should the bond pass.”
The Elizabeth Ruthruff Wilson Foundation so far has pledged $500,000 for the music addition.
Flexible furniture replaces the old style desks that have chairs attached to them. Classrooms all across the country are changing to a modern learning environment. That means desks and tables are easy to move around the rooms. Flexible furniture provides a of variety seat choices, including more seats being open than used, a variety of heights in seating options, and various types of seating options. Work surfaces in flexible classrooms include a variety of height-adjustable tables, flip tables and writable tables or surfaces.
Bond proposal development
In February 2020, Tecumseh Public Schools hired TMP Architecture to update the 2014 district facility assessment and provide a program assessment of the elementary school buildings to identify building infrastructure deficiencies across the district. TMP designed the high school and worked with the district on other building projects.
The district formed a building futures committee in May 2020. It was comprised of 34 participants, including parents, coaches, teachers and administrators. The BFC attended five virtual meetings between the months of June and September 2020 to help prioritize goals and objectives for the future of district facilities and ultimately analyze and select concepts to bring the facilities in line with the district’s vision.
After the BFC formed a consensus on direction, the district decided to test the Tecumseh community members’ perception of the potential bond program through a survey with the premise of a zero-increase or potential decrease to the current debt millage rate. EPIC-MRA conducted the survey in September 2020, interviewing 250 registered voters in the district. Based on feedback, the district decided to wait until a future date to bring the proposal to voters.
On Oct. 7, 2021, the committee regrouped to discuss the potential bond program. Cost estimates were updated, and a new financial analysis was done by the district’s financial adviser. The BFC came to a consensus to recommend a bond proposal for May 3, 2022.
On Nov. 8, 2021, the BFC presented its findings and recommendation to the board of education, which voted to support moving forward with a May 3 bond election in the amount of $75 million.
The current millage rate for school debt is 7.2 mills, or $7.20 per $1,000 dollars in a property’s taxable value. This is also the proposed millage rate for the bond proposal to fund capital improvement projects. The 7.2 mills was approved by voters about 20 years ago to build the high school and make improvements to the other school buildings, and it is due to expire in the next few years.
If passed by the voters, the 7.2 mills would continue in some form through 2053. For a home with a market value of approximately $200,000 and a taxable value of $100,000, this would cost the taxpayer $720 per year.
If voters reject the proposal, based on the current debt service schedule from the school district, the current millage is projected to decrease to 3.78 mills for the 2022 tax year and will continue to decrease through the 2028 tax year, at which time the current bonds would be paid off and the debt millage would go to zero.
The district continues to saturate the community with flyers and other print media and there will be many more meetings led by Hilderley, who will address questions the public may have:
- April 19, 3 to 4 pm at Patterson Intermediate Learning Center, 401 N. Van Buren, Tecumseh.
- April 19, 6:30 to 7:30 pm at Tecumseh High School, 760 Brown Street, Tecumseh.
- April 20, 3 to 4 pm at Sutton Early Learning Center, 2780 Sutton Road, Adrian.
- April 21, 3 to 4 pm at Herrick Park Intermediate Learning Center, Tecumseh.
- April 21, 6 to 7 pm virtual meeting on Zoom; viewing information to be posted online closer to the meeting date.
- April 28 6 to 7 pm virtual meeting on Zoom; viewing information to be posted online closer to the meeting date.
On Election Day, May 3, the polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm All in-person voting will be done at the AJ Smith Recreation Center at 810 N. Evans St. in Tecumseh. Voters have until 8 pm on Election Day to turn in their absentee ballots, whether that’s handing the ballot in at the clerk’s office or mailing it in.