South Bend school board set for the first school improvement projects

(Photo supplied/ABC 57)

The South Bend school board has set the stage for the first school improvement projects that are being paid for with the district’s 2020 referendum dollars.

The school board approved 11 bids Monday night for roofing, paving and other facilities improvements to be completed across the district this summer.

The bid awards come after the board approved in January $9 million in spending from the South Bend district’s $54 million capital projects referendum passed by voters last summer.

A second question on last June’s ballot asked voters to approve an operating referendum expected to bring $20.5 million annually for eight years for other educational expenses, such as teacher salaries.

Together, the two referendums amount to an increase of 40 cents per $100 in net assessed value to property owners, restoring the 38 cents per $100 South Bend schools lost when state property tax caps took effect last year in St. Joseph County.

Property owners this spring say they were surprised to see the total increase to their tax bill, compared to a lower overall bill last year. County and district officials, however, say the effect of property tax caps driving a decrease last year, in addition to an increase in assessed value of property this year, likely explains the change.

The district is also making plans for how it will use millions in federal coronavirus relief money to support air quality projects, student remediation and more.

A detailed presentation on those topics will come at a later date, Superintendent Todd Cummings said Monday night.

“We have to be very thoughtful, transparent and responsible, obviously, with all these dollars coming in that we ensure that not only we improve our student outcomes, which is the ultimate goal, but also that we use that money so that it puts us on a long-term sustainable path,” Board President John Anella said in the Monday meeting.

Since first turning to voters for a tax increase, South Bend school leaders have said they plan to dedicate their capital spending toward:

  • $2 million to install secure entryways at all schools.
  • $6 million to install security cameras in all secondary schools.
  • $3.5 million for fire system upgrades.
  • $34 million to “revitalize and enhance existing school buildings.”
  • $8.5 million to consolidate Career and Technical Education programs in a Career Innovation Center.

Bid agreements approved Monday night make good on multiple referendum promises, including parking lot paving projects at two district properties, fire alarm system replacements in three buildings, roof replacement and repairs at three schools and window replacements in two locations


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