RCAPS hoping May voters approve two bond extensions

Proposals provide additional $14.8 million to district

REED CITY — Two bond extension proposals for Reed City Area Public Schools will bring in an additional $14.8 million to the budget if voters pass the issues in the Tuesday, May 3, election.

"These bond proposals are separate on the budget," said RCAPS Superintendent Tim Webster. "A good school system lifts the entire community. Businesses will prosper and people who think education is important will come to Reed City. I think we want those people in our community. Nice facilities also say something about the community, that education and schools are important and that there's a sense of community pride. We want to make our schools really nice."

The RCAPS district is predominantly in Osceola County, but also extends to areas of Mecosta County, Lake County and Newaygo County.

Residents at the polls will first have the option to vote for Proposal 1, which would provide the district with more than $3.8 million if approved. It's a zero-interest bond which would extend the current payment schedule from 2029 until 2031 without increasing tax rates, according to Webster.

Proposal 1 funding will take care of deferred building improvements, safety and security, energy efficiency, educational technology and various upgrades such as sports facilities and classroom repairs.

"A lot of these things have been put off since about 2008 when the financial crunch hit Michigan and all state schools," Webster said. "Some of them we've put off so we don't cut programs and so we keep teachers in the classroom. These are on the list of things we have to do whether the bond passes or not. We're just asking for a shot in the arm to help catch us up a little bit."

Building improvements range from the addition of air conditioning for the middle school tech room to the replacement of portions of the middle school, high school shop, high school's lower level and north lobby roofs. The roofs, Webster added, are reaching the end of their warranties set up decades ago.

Ensuring the school building is safe and ready in an emergency situation is another high priority of Proposal 1. If the bond passes, secure entrances will be constructed in each school building and the central office, security camera system upgrades will be implemented, phone emergency systems will be upgraded, additional fencing will be installed at the elementary playground, emergency lighting will be added to each gymnasium and sidewalks will be repaired.

"Security is a necessary expense," Webster said. "The best way is to have outside doors that are open and people would come into a foyer type of area with a second set of locked doors. That foyer area would open to an office so people have to go into the office and get approved before going past the set of locked doors. In an emergency situation, the door going into the office can be locked."

The doors also would be on a timer at the beginning of the day, with doors being locked once school officially begins.

Installing energy-efficient items in the schools also is part of Proposal 1. Money from the bond would be set aside for the conversion of pneumatic thermostat controls to direct digital controls, and the replacement of gym, parking lot and interior lights with LED lights and bulbs which conserve more energy.

Another need in the district is education technology, which will include infrastructure upgrades and equipment upgrades for staff and students.

"Even if just Proposal 1 passes, we'll be one-to-one with technology," Webster added. "Some of the prices for technology are coming down, and if you have a good WiFi system to run on, you can do a lot with that. Our system definitely needs to be upgraded."

Lastly, the first proposal will cover the cost of the replacement of the track and an upgrade to the athletic field.

"Our track is currently un-runnable," Webster said. "We haven't had a home track meet in a couple of years because it's deteriorated and there are structural problems with the track. It wasn't built correctly in the first place. And the football field doesn't drain properly. So, this proposal will allow us to totally replace the entire thing, and do it right."

Buses also are a need, as a few of the current buses are falling victim to rust. Through the bond funding, the district will purchase two used buses to supplement that need. Classroom furniture replacements at the elementary and middle schools as needed and the replacement of carpet in the middle school hallways also are included.

The second bond proposal will provide the district with nearly $11 million if passed, and would be a 1.7 mill increase to taxpayers if passed in May. Webster says this means the average home value in Reed City — which is valued at $75,000 — will pay about $64 each year of the bond, which amounts to just over $5 a month or 18 cents per day.

"I'm excited because I believe that's affordable," Webster said. "No one wants their taxes to go up, but if you see everything we'd be able to do with the bond, it's good for everybody. I think the board has been very careful not to ask for things we don't need. In my opinion, this is a good, sound, solid and practical system that we're looking to add."

He hopes voters will desire to pass Proposal 2 as he believes it will create an attractive atmosphere for the school district and area.

"Proposal 2 focuses on things we feel need to be done to keep us competitive," Webster said. "They are things we'd like to see and feel we need to do to keep up. We've tried to be conservative in the things we would like and we're asking for nice things for the students and the community."

The largest project of Proposal 2 is creating a multi-purpose facility at Reed City High School. The extensive area would be a combination auxiliary gym and auditorium, with retractable theater seating for 750 people, a stage, lighting and sound systems, a large weight room and elevated walking track which would be open to the community.

"That room would be acoustically sound like an auditorium, but when you retract the seating it's an auxiliary gymnasium," Webster said. "We can use that if someone wants to sponsor a speaker to come to our community, then we have an auditorium to seat people. We also can hold in-services for the whole Intermediate School District in this auditorium and we'll have a place for our band to perform, too. There's a lot of things we would use it for. It's a room that has very practical use."

Athletic facilities also would be improved if Proposal 2 passes in May, with plans to expand the existing gym on the west side for additional space and seating, relocate the baseball field to the south to make room for a larger parking lot, and construct a concession stand with restrooms and a press box.

Upgrades also would take place inside each school building. Plans include an expansion and remodel of the band classroom, expansion of the media center and expanding the parking lots at the middle school/high school. The high school locker rooms, high school restrooms and high school life skills kitchen will be remodeled and upgraded, white boards will be replaced at the elementary school and window blinds will be replaced at the middle school.

"The band room is too small; they're outgrowing it," Webster said. "If you put all 85 kids in there at one time they barely fit. Remodeling that also gives us the chance to remodel the media center. The lockers in the high school are the same as they were in 1963 and some of the classrooms in the old wing at GT Norman still have the old chalkboards."

Technology improvements also have their place in Proposal 2.

"In Proposal 1 we have money to get some basic needs done, but we'd like to do much more and there's an additional $830,000 geared toward technology," Webster said. "So in total we'd end up with $1.6 million for technology if both proposals pass. We'd be state of the art in the technology department."

For community residents who have questions, a public forum will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, in the Porteous Academic Center. Additional information can be found at the RCAPS website, reedcity.k12.mi.us, from RCAPS Board of Education members or from Webster.

Webster hopes the community will support the district in at least one of the proposals, but he also is prepared for the worst case scenario.

"If neither passes, we have to skimp along and replace the worst roof first and try to continue with just the things we have to do," Webster said. "We'll have to look at what roof will need to get done next year and set aside some money for that. We'll get by, but there are some areas that have been put off for a long time.

"Even if just Proposal 1 passes, that will be a shot in the arm because there's $4 million that won't have to come out of the general fund. Then we can do the things we need to do. "