PICKFORD, Mich. (WJMN) – On Michigan’s upcoming May 3 Election Day, voters in multiple U.P. communities will be faced with measures on the ballot affecting their communities. One such measure is Pickford Public Schools $3.5 million bonding proposal.
“It’s a proposal to request that the voters approve a set amount of funds that would be used towards construction and capital projects for the school district,” said Angela Nettleton, Superintendent for Pickford Public Schools. “So bond funds can be used for building improvements and new construction. They can’t be used for operating expenses. You can’t pay salaries with them. You can’t, you know, go and enter contracts and things with them.”
The proposal will build off of another $8.5 million measure that voters passed in 2019. Nettleton says the 2019 proposal was passed with the plan to make security additions, expand the building for a growing student population, and make on-site additions to the school, including a bus loop and a student pickup and dropoff area for students.
Nettleton says the plan was for the 2019 bond millage to begin when the school finished paying off previous building additions that passed in the late 1990s in order to mitigate the impact felt by taxpayers. However, plans were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying construction and driving up costs well beyond what the school had projected.
“There was a large increase in material costs. There were delays in obtaining materials, there’s increase in contractor costs and in the bids,” Nettleton said. “Our first round of bids came in 40% over estimates, so we had to put the project on hold for a year, and we went out to bids again. Again, they came in quite a bit higher than anticipated, and so we had to rebid a third time.”
Ultimately, the school was forced to remove a six-classroom addition from its plans, as well as upgrades to science labs, a planned resurfacing of the parking lot, and locker room renovations in order to get under budget. If the upcoming May 3 proposal does not pass, Nettleton says those projects will not be able to be completed.
Nettleton added that the school is tight on space, with the school library being used as a sixth-grade classroom. Should the proposal fail, the school will likely need to begin placing limits on its school of choice enrollment.
“We want to give our taxpayers everything that we initially promised them,” Nettleton said. “I don’t like having to go in and ask for more money, but at this point in time we have no other way to support the project other than doing that, and we’re trying to minimize the impact on the taxpayers. So we’re hopeful that this will all go as hoped for and we can finish everything up.”
Nettleton says that while officials are optimistic about the proposal passing, the school will need to analyze why and make adjustments before submitting the proposal again in future elections if it is turned down.
Pickford residents can enter their precinct information on the Secretary of State website here to read the exact language of the proposal’s tax levy information.