BERRIEN SPRINGS — Two big school district projects are moving forward after action Thursday by the Berrien Springs Board of Education. Board members ratified the sale of bonds for both the $19.73 million project approved by voters in November and the $8 million Sylvester Stadium project.
Jeff Soles of the Lansing-based Thrun Law Firm is working with the district on the bond sales. He told board members Thursday that both sets of bonds were sold earlier this week and all the paperwork will be done by the end of the month.
He reported that a face value of $17.215 million worth of bonds were sold for the voter approved project and will bring in the full $19.73 million that voters authorized. The $19.73 million will pay for the construction of a new performing arts center and a new indoor athletic facility, both connected to the high school.
Bonds for the $8 million non-voted project were also sold to pay for the construction of the new Sylvester Stadium. The project involves re-aligning and enlarging the football field and making other improvements, including more parking. It is being paid for out of the district’s general fund and can be paid back after five years, if the district chooses to.
The bond ratification votes did not mention the interest rates for the bonds sold, but Business Manager Ellen Hasse said the interest rates came in below the 4 percent rate the district had been expecting. The lower interest rates will likely translate to lower millage rates for residents in the future, as less money will be needed to pay off the bonds.
The bond issue will be paid off over 20 years and district officials said previously it will require an average millage levy of 3.56 mills over those years. District officials said the actual increase property owners will see on their tax bills will be less as levies totaling 2.78 mills expired last year.
That put the actual millage increase at .7632 over the 20 years, an amount that might go down more with the better-than-expected interest rates on the bond sales.
Construction on the Sylvester Stadium project is expected to start later this year, while there are several more steps that need to be done on the performing arts center/athletic facility project. Visioning sessions on the design of the buildings are going on this month and final design development will be done this summer.
Construction drawings and documents will be developed between August and the end of the year, consultant Tony Leininger said last month. The project will be bid out in early 2020 with contracts awarded in March 2020. He said construction will start in April 2020 and be done by the end of 2021.
Also Thursday, board members approved a new board meeting agenda format. Starting with the Feb. 21 meeting, the agenda will be streamlined with a consent agenda to handle routine items such as minutes, bills and new hirings. Any consent item can be discussed and voted on separately if board members wish.
Other changes involve public participation to have a framework in place to handle public comments, having agenda subheadings for action and discussion items and have an action calendar attached to the agenda so that board members know what events or programs are coming up.