Citizens to vote on bond proposal on May 2

Bond proposal aims to renovate and update various aspects of district schools

Abby Williams, Editor in Chief

School districts in Michigan must have their community vote for extra money to receive their full share of state aid. On May 2, registered voters in the community will vote on the Safety and Success 2023 Election, which includes two proposals: the No Current Tax-Rate Increase Bond Proposal and the Non-Homestead Operating Millage Proposal.

“There’s two parts to the proposal,” principal Tim Youngblood said. “For the first part, the state of Michigan has funding for a ten millage renewal. That means businesses in our area pay a certain percentage, and every certain amount of years you have to renew it. There’s a certain point, up to 18 mills you can get, and that’s what they expect you to do. It gives a couple more million dollars of spending money for the students and for the community.”

The bonds will provide funding for numerous future plans for Utica, such as increased safety and security, remodeling, improvements, and equipment.

“The other part is a $550 million bond, and it’s pretty massive. Most of the schools in this district haven’t really been updated too much, almost all of them were built in the sixties,” Youngblood said. “For Utica High School itself, they’re talking about getting some athletic fields down, new school security, those sorts of things.”

One big aspect of the bond proposal is updating security measures at Utica.

“They’re trying to get shatterproof glass in most of the glass entryways,” Youngblood said. “It’ll offer more protection. If someone comes in and they really want to get in, they could do other things to break through the glass.”

The proposal also plans to improve the locking system on doors and to replace the P.A. system.

The bond proposal isn’t solely about safety, however. The proposal also touches on improvements to the building, such as redesigning the parking lot and replacing its paving.

“Our parking lot is a mess,” Youngblood said. “They’re going to repave all the parking lots, probably better lighting, better security out there.”

To Youngblood, redoing the parking lot is one of the most important parts of the bond proposal.

“I think redesigning the parking lot is very important,” Youngblood said. “I hope we can get some more parking, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I think the parking lot itself here is in bad shape. It’s one of the biggest needs for Utica High.”

“I think the improvements to the parking lot would make it a much easier and safer place to navigate and park in,” senior Daniel Olah said. “The redesign will definitely help clear up some of the awkwardness there is with the spots, and fixing the pavement makes it a lot smoother to have to drive on, which is a definite plus considering we use it every day.”

The parking lot isn’t the only thing being repaved. The proposal also plans on replacing the paving at Swinehart Stadium, along with improving the stadium, press box, and bleachers.

The site improvements section of the proposal will also make lots of improvements to the multi-use field, such as adding synthetic turf and bleachers, as well as adding synthetic turf to the infield of the baseball and softball fields and adding more tennis courts.

“They’ll be adding a 100 yard turf field down there for practices,” Youngblood said. “Baseball and softball are in pretty good shape, but the field down there isn’t. The kids from Ford have to go to Stevenson for practices, so this way they won’t have to do that, which will be nice.”

The third section of the proposal focuses on remodeling multiple different parts of the school, such as renovating science labs and art rooms, upgrading the lighting and sound of the Performing Arts Center, and replacing some areas of the roof.

“It’s important to support the bond to improve our Performing Arts Center because some of our lighting and sound systems have been here for many years and are not in great shape,” senior Alaina Wisswell said. “These enhancements could help make future performances run much smoother and be an overall more pleasant experience for the viewers.”

Wisswell and junior Maia Suggs took it upon themselves to advertise the proposal because of how important they believed it was.

“Maia and I walked around Maia’s neighborhood to put fliers on people’s doors,” Wisswell said. “It was to show what the proposal will do for our school. I wanted to help support the proposal and we were one of the many groups that went around the district, but it was Maia and her mom that suggested the idea to me in the first place.”

Advertising the proposal went well for Wisswell and Suggs. “It went very well despite it being cold and windy that day,” Wisswell said. “Some of the fliers didn’t want to stay on the doorknobs. I believe doing this may have had an impact on the people who didn’t have information on the proposal or even know about it in the first place.”

The ECC will also be upgraded.

“That room was created by a bond from around 2004, maybe a bit later than that,” Youngblood said. “The system 20 years ago was state of the art and now it’s really poor. The audio barely works, if it does work. It’s a projection system, so now they’re going to try to get something brand new so we can actually use it for meeting rooms, classrooms, that sort of thing.”

The proposal will also upgrade plumbing and HVAC systems at Utica.

“How many times have we been closing bathrooms not just because of vaping, but because of flooding?” Youngblood said. “Utica High School has the most floods, I think. This is the oldest high school in the district so a lot of the heating and cooling stuff is still the original pipework. Any time we do a renovation, they have to rip out everything. It’s pretty extensive.”

Some teachers, such as teacher John See, think the improvements to the HVAC systems are especially important.

“I think that that is the best,” See said. “Mine hasn’t been working right for 11 years now, and it’s very frustrating. It makes teaching a lot easier when the temperature isn’t fully hot or fully cold.”

Students also agree that the HVAC systems desperately need to be updated.

“I definitely support upgrading the HVAC systems. I’ll go into one room while wearing shorts and it’ll be freezing, I don’t want to be cold,” sophomore Matt Elechicon said. “It’s distracting. I’m focusing more on being cold than the actual class. Same thing for being hot, it gets way too hot in the classrooms to do any work.”

Youngblood believes that upgrading these systems are also one of the most important aspects of the proposal, along with redesigning the parking lot.

“For Utica High School itself, the HVAC systems and plumbing, as well as the parking lot, are the biggest needs,” Youngblood said. “All the other stuff is going to look nice for sure, but as far as what this building really needs, it’s those two things. If you go in one classroom, it feels 95 degrees and another classroom feels like 45 degrees. I think those are the biggest things we need.”

These changes, if passed by the voters, won’t go into effect for a while, however.

“It’s going to be probably 10 years, you guys will be off into your life before all this stuff is all done,” Youngblood said, “but we will see some of the stuff immediately, and I don’t know what that is.”

Bond proposals typically don’t have trouble gaining support from the community.

“The community usually has been pretty supportive of bond proposals in the past,” Youngblood said. “It’s definitely much needed, students have been around other schools and other districts for certain events, and they see what those schools have. We’re the second largest district in the state of Michigan, so why can’t we have those same things? It’s going to be a pretty big deal, so we’ll see what happens.”