BUCHANAN — Buchanan Community Schools will again ask voters to approve a $34.8 million bond proposal.
But one resident is campaigning to see that the second attempt fails in the May 2 special election.
According to the district’s website, the proposal would result in a 2-mill increase from what’s currently levied – raising it to 3.2 mills. Should the millage pass, a home with a taxable value of $100,000, would pay $200 more annually in taxes. The millage would provide $34.7 million for building and site improvements, district officials said.
The project would focus on extensive renovations on Moccasin Elementary School, a 75-year-old building, and Buchanan High School, a 101-year-old building, Superintendent Patricia Robinson said.
The district conducted a facilities study in 2021, which Robinson said showed infrastructure deficiencies.
“We determined that we need to do major overhauls within those two buildings,” she said.
A prior bond request failed in November, with 2,061 votes in favor and 2,326 votes opposed. Robinson sent an email to families after the election, stating the board would study their plan, revise it and put it before the voters again in May.
“We’ve made some major adjustments as we’ve listened to people with feedback out in the community, meetings internally,” Robinson said.
The current plan will update HVAC, windows, technology, restrooms and lighting at both schools. Should the bond pass, Moccasin would be updated to be ADA-compliant. It would also update the culinary and science labs, expand the cafeteria and build a health and wellness center at the high school.
Public informational meetings and building tours will be held at 6 p.m. April 6 at Moccasin Elementary School, and 6 p.m. April 20 at Buchanan High School.
Buchanan resident Carla Johnson has been campaigning against the measure, calling it an unfair burden on taxpayers.
Johnson had previously promoted two We the Parent candidates for school board – both of whom were unsuccessful in their runs for office. She claims to have knocked on more than 1,000 doors.
“We defeated this (millage) in November, and we don’t understand why they’re coming back for this,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she has been recruiting precinct delegates from the Berrien County GOP, although the effort is her own, and not sponsored by either the Berrien County GOP or We the Parents.
Some community members mistakenly believed the health and wellness center would be a clinic, where students could receive medical treatment like vaccinations. However, Robinson said the health and wellness center would be a weight room – not a clinic.
“We don’t need to have a weight room. We can bring our kids up just fine without one,” Johnson said.
Robinson said she’s also heard rumors that Buchanan was doing away with single-gender restrooms with the millage proposals, which is false. Rather, the plan calls for two single-stall, handicap-accessible bathrooms in both Moccasin and the high school, in addition to the existing single-gender bathrooms.
The school district’s website has more detailed information about the proposed millage. “Vote No” flyers from Johnson’s group state Buchanan’s taxes are already too high, and the district should close “redundant” elementary schools.
Lakeshore Public Schools, Coloma Community Schools and Watervliet Public Schools are also pursuing bond measures in upcoming special elections. Johnson said she has reached out to Berrien County GOP precinct delegates in these areas to encourage them to oppose those millages as well.
“Every precinct has to carry out its own. But I can organize,” she said via text on Friday.