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Education is a big issue in northern Michigan, whether we're reporting on school funding issues to breakthroughs in the classroom.

School districts across Michigan seek money for building renovations and equipment

Morgan Springer
Students wrap up gym class in a northern Michigan elementary school.

School districts across Michigan are asking voters for more money for building renovations and equipment. More than 20 bond proposals are on ballots Tuesday, May 8. A number of those districts are trying again after bond proposals failed in previous elections.

Last year, Cadillac Area Public Schools asked for a $68.9 million bond. It lost by 45 votes: 2,512 “yes” votes to 2,557 “no” votes.

“We did receive feedback from the community that the overall price was too high, and it was too heavy in athletics,” says Jennifer Brown, district superintendent.

This year, the district in Wexford County has reduced its bond request by about $3 million and has eliminated major athletic improvements to the track and gym. The new ask on the May ballot is $65.5 million, the second highest bond request in the state this election. 

Brown says district school buildings haven’t been renovated in years.

“We have multiple buildings that struggle to maintain temperature; there’s lack of light,” she says. “They definitely impact students’ ability to focus and make learning the priority.” 

She says administrators have heard complaints directly from students.

Brown says renovations will address all that, plus create a new early childhood center and increase security.

She says this is a needs-based – not a wants-based – proposal and that the needs are immediate and will only become more expensive over time if the bond doesn’t pass.

“So we would have to put operating dollars – good money – into bad systems, and continue to try to fix and repair and get through,” she says.

Brown says there will always be people who don’t want more taxes, but they’ve tried to put forward a proposal that works for the Cadillac community and the students.

Down the road in Mesick, the school 163 district is also trying again after a bond proposal failed. It lost by votes with 347 in favor and 510 against the bond. The district has reduced its bond proposal from $14.5 million to $12.8 million this year. 

Leland Public School and Baldwin Community Schools will ask voters for money for repairs and equipment as well. Jackson Public Schools is asking for the highest bond amount in the state this election at $86.7 million.

You can see a list of bond proposals on the May 8th ballots – and the upcoming August ballots – here.

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.