Billed as a bond that will transform the district and shape its future, on Thursday, January 30, the Bloomfield Hills Schools Board of Education voted to place a $200.155 million bond proposal to support school renovation, additions, security and the movement of some school populations on the May 5 ballot.
District Superintendent Pat Watson, who joined the district January 6, said in a letter to Bloomfield Hills School families, “An incredible amount of work has occurred to reach this decision. Nearly six years of research, community engagement, and consultations with field experts have led to this $200 million proposal,” which will include safety and security upgrades at all schools; three middle schools combining into two middle schools, including re-opening the former Lahser High School and renovating it as a middle school, with Bloomfield Hills Middle School as the other site; significant renovations at Conant and Way elementary schools; the movement of Lone Pine elementary to West Hills Middle School, which would become the new Lone Pine, with renovations and updates; Eastover would move to East Hills Middle School, which would become Eastover, also with renovations and updates; Bloomin' Preschool would be housed and expanded at Eastover and Conant; and Bloomfield Hills High School would receive health and wellness upgrades, among other improvements.
“Between the two middle schools, the community would enjoy a new pool (with open hours for community use), STEM and robotics spaces, and areas for collaboration and critical thinking,” Watson said.
“Our school district is a source of community pride,” said board of education president Paul Kolin. “Voter approval of this bond proposal will vastly improve educational programming and assure that Bloomfield Hills remains one of America’s premier school districts. The proposed enhancements to the school district will benefit our students and our community for decades to come.”
However, the improvements, which were introduced at the board's December 19, 2019 meeting, do not come cheap. Approximately $33 million in costs are immediate needs, Brian Goby, director of physical plant services for the district, told board members. If approved by voters, the school district’s tax rate is projected to increase by 1.85 mills. A mill is equal to $1 in property tax per every $1,000 in taxable value, which is typically about half of a home's market value.
Improvement and renovation costs were driven by findings of the scope and design committee. Educators, staff, current, former and future parents worked together to look at various options and to provide feedback on options.
District spokesperson Shira Good acknowledged there were concerns in the district about putting the bond proposal on the May 5 ballot, when it likely will be the only thing voters will be asked to vote on, rather than waiting until the August primary or November general election.
“It was a hard decision to go (for the bond) in May,” Good said. “We didn't want it to be seen as a stealth election.”
However, she said, Barton Malow, the contractor who is anticipated to perform the construction renovations and improvements, informed the district it will be about $2 million in construction savings by going on the May ballot instead of the August ballot, presuming the bond is approved.
“We share the concerns, but all the experts say you'll lose a year of improved education because of lost construction,” Good said. “We feel if we can traverse the May election by showing our transparency, in order to get the best for our students and save some money, knowing it is a tax increase, we have to do that. We owe it to our kids to invest in them.”