On the ballot | News, Sports, Jobs

On the ballot | News, Sports, Jobs


HANCOCK — Hancock Public Schools Superintendent Steve Patchin spoke about the district's two millages on the Nov. 8 ballot at Wednesday’s Hancock City Council meeting.

The district has separate millage requests:

• A $4.225 million bond proposal for remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, and equipping and re-equipping school buildings; acquiring and installing instructional technology and instructional technology equipment for school buildings; and developing and improving a playground, parking areas, driveways and sites. Residents would pay an estimated 1.12 mills in 2023, with an estimated annual average of 1.03 mills over the bond's life, for a maximum of 26 years.

• A 1.5-mill, five-year renewal of the building and site sinking fund millage that expired in 2022. The fund can be used for the construction or repair of school buildings, for school security improvements, the acquisition or upgrading of technology and all other purposes authorized by law.

Patchin said the bond proposal focuses on three areas: health, safety and discovery in STEM.

For safety, the district will rework parking lots, bus pickup and dropoff, and student pickup and dropoff. The Barkell Elementary school playground will also be upgraded, with sections split off developmentally by age and grade.

“We all know that kids learn a lot by playing, and this will be available to our community,” Patchin said.

Kitchens will undergo renovation. During COVID, the district prepared between 600 to 900 meals weekly for students and their families, which took a toll, Patchin said.

“We’re still in good shape, but as you know, with old equipment, if you try to repair it and it’s outdated, good luck finding the parts,” he said.

The district has also made a big push in STEM. The money will fund labs for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and fabrication labs.

Hancock recently became one of 81 districts designated as a prime school by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ foundation. That came with $300,000 in equipment, teacher training, and long-term relationships with companies.

“We’re getting the equipment through these grants and bringing it in; now we need a place to house it,” he said. “And we need a place so that these kids can engage it in the proper ways.”

To receive the certification, students learn foundational skills in manufacturing. Students can earn micro certificates in everything from welding to computer-aided design.

“They could leave tomorrow and take these and get a job anywhere they want,” he said. “Or they can use those skills and build on it, going to Gogebic Community College, Finlandia, Michigan Tech.”

The district is also renewing its sinking fund, used to fix and upgrade district buildings. The district used the fund for everything from air conditioners to the high school roof in the previous five years.

Upcoming projects include the Hancock Middle School roof, fixing the Barkell Elementary entrance, which has been shifting; replacing Barkell windows, which are reaching their end of life; and upgrading sound and lighting in the middle school auditorium.

Unlike the bond issue, there’s no interest rate.

Even if voters approve both millages, they will still see a significant tax drop from this year, Patchin said.

Last year, the district collected about 8.9 mills. Because of previous bonds being paid off, residents will still pay about 2.95 mills less even if both measures are approved.

“Most districts will go out, and they’ll try to capture that right off the bat because once you’re at a certain mill, you continue to capture and reinvest in your district,” Patchin said. “We’re not asking you to do this. Our board is very cognitive about the times that we’re in and our community.”

Because of rising property values in the city, the millage rate being levied is expected to decline over the bond's life. Property values went up an average of 3.8% over the past five years, Patchin said; the district assumed 2.5% growth when putting its proposal together.

The district’s bond company also took rising inflation into account when preparing the proposal; Patchin anticipates being able to take the bond out at rates of 4.5% to 4.6%.

“Nothing will change as the rates go up because our bond company made a very conservative cost estimate,” he said.

Hancock schools’ total bond debt has been dropping since the 1990s, Councilor John Haeussler said. Where it had once been as high as 11.33 mills, it will now be under 6.

“I think that’s very reasonable, and even if passed, puts the bond debt at a very reasonable rate for all the taxpayers in the community,” he said.


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