Posted: Feb. 21, 2010
Berkley, Chippewa Valley schools: Low home values working against school upgrades
Bonds for better technology a hard sell in economy
BY MELANIE D. SCOTT
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
A sluggish economy and decreasing home values have many voters in the Chippewa Valley and Berkley Public School districts debating whether they will approve bond issues for building and technology upgrades Tuesday.
In Berkley, school officials are asking district residents to approve a $167.6-million bond and pay 4.27 mills. The owner of a home with the taxable value of $75,000 would pay about $320 a year. If approved, the money would be used to rebuild most of the district's schools, which officials said are an average of 67 years old.
The district serves about 4,600 students from north Oak Park, Berkley, Huntington Woods and part of Royal Oak.
"The plan is excessive and overly expensive and way beyond what we need right now," said Susan Witus of Huntington Woods, who has three children in the district.
Officials said the bond would cover the cost of building a new middle school across from Berkley High. The plan also calls for adding a theater and a creative arts center at the high school and rebuilding the district's elementary schools. "It's expensive, but I think it's an investment in the kids' future," said Michelle Kennedy, a Berkley resident who does not have children.
In Chippewa Valley Schools, the $89-million bond proposal would not raise taxes -- residents would continue to pay the 7.65 mills they have been paying since 1979.
The district serves about 16,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Clinton and Macomb townships.
If approved, the bond would pay for science labs at Algonquin Middle School and Dakota High School, the installation of security cameras at the district's elementary and middle schools, updating an aging bus fleet and replacing outdated computers throughout the district, officials said.
District officials held more than 30 presentations with staff members, senior citizens and parent groups in hopes of getting the bond passed, said superintendent Mark Deldin.
Despite the presentations, several residents say the bond comes at the wrong time. "I'm not against the schools, I'm just not sure this is the right time for people financially," said Jonathan Miles, a retired Macomb Township resident.
But residents like Maggie Clarke of Clinton Township disagree. "Kids shouldn't have to suffer because of the economy. They should have what they need to help them do well."