Voters in the South Haven school district will decide Tuesday, May 4 whether to approve a $34.85 million bond issue to make a wide variety of building and athletic facility improvements.

The decision to do so follows a year-long examination of the district’s facilities needs, according to Superintendent Kevin Schooley.

“We started this process in 2019,” he said following the school board’s decision in February to put the bond issue on the May ballot. “We’ve been working with staff, the superintendent’s advisory committee, the school board facilities committee and then partnering with GMB architectural and engineering to put together an analysis of facility needs and how much it would cost.”

For the past several months, a citizen-led bond issue committee has been canvassing the South Haven community to spread the word about the need for passage of the bond issue.

“The bond will do many things that will maintain the district’s upward momentum, which has catapulted us to the top of our peer group,” said Robyn Henrickson, a member of the committee. “It will facilitate new educational programming upgrades that will provide our students with a superior learning environment and may be leveraged to attract new students, families, or businesses to the area, driving economic growth. When our schools are successful, it is an asset to our community. When they succeed, we all succeed.

“Additionally, The bond is necessary to maintain our aging school buildings and provide much needed ADA upgrades like barrier free access and restrooms,” Henrickson continued to say. “It will also fund many health and safety measures such as secured entry points and air purification which will significantly reduce the spread of illness.”

If voters OK the bond issue, district taxpayers would not be paying any more in property taxes for the district than they are already doing so now, according to school officials. In fact, they’ll be paying slightly less than what they are already paying now.

To make this possible, district officials would extend by 30 years a bond issue first approved in 1991 to construct Baseline Middle School. That 30-year-old bond debt of $4.8 million is set to expire this year. If voters OK the new bond issue May 4, it will in essence replace the 1991 bond issue. In fact, according to Schooley it would reduce the 4.8 mills currently being levied for the 1991 bond issue, to 4.5 mills.

“We have the opportunity now to let the community weigh in on this,” Schooley said. “We can get $34.8 million of work that’s needed and decrease the millage rate by three tenths of a mill. If I don’t give people the opportunity to take a look at this it would be negligent.”

If the tax levy is approved, work would begin in the spring and summer months of 2022.

Six years ago, South Haven area voters put their stamp of approval on a $36.74 million bond issue to make $28 million worth of building and technology upgrades at South Haven High School, as well as some improvements to the district’s other buildings.

At the time, however, district officials said they knew the bond issue wouldn’t provide enough funding to pay for another laundry list of upgrades to buildings and athletic facilities still needed, such as replacement of sections of the roof structure, as well as ceilings and replacement of the boiler and water heater.

Other needs for buildings and athletic facilities that would be paid for by the extended tax levy include:

Lincoln Elementary School – Improved sidewalks, increased ventilation, roofing, exterior doors and frames, boiler replacement, an emergency generator, and air purification systems.

Maple Grove Elementary School – Some paving, increased ventilation, roofing, some flooring replacement, an air-purification system, an emergency generator, parking lot expansion, and boiler, water heater and air-handling unit replacements.

North Shore Elementary School – Moving the main office closer to the school’s main entrance to provide greater security and converting the current office into learning space, an emergency generator, upgrading the fire alarm system, parking lot paving, boiler and water heater replacement and adding an air-purification system.

Baseline Middle School – Replacement of ceilings, reconfiguring the parking lot, roofing and window upgrades, boiler and water heater replacement, reconfiguring learning space to provide a separate room for the orchestra (When the school was built in 1992, the orchestra, which was smaller then, shared space with the choir. Right now, the orchestra is rehearsing in a former home economics room).

South Haven High School – Some roofing replacement, improvements to the heating and cooling equipment in Listiak Auditorium, air purification systems, additional back parking lot lighting and creating a health room in the main office.

Athletic facilities – Additional fencing for the softball and baseball fields; replacement of the tennis courts and lighting; grading, drainage and irrigation improvements at the Aylworth property soccer fields; reconstructing the track at Ratcliffe Field, barrier-free toilet buildings for the baseball and softball fields and tennis courts at the high school; bleacher replacement at Ratcliffe Field, and upgrades to Arkins Fieldhouse.