Hillman schools to focus on improvements

Property tax secured, roofs and security top priorities

News Photo by Julie Goldberg The roof atop Hillman Elementary School, as seen here on Wednesday, was built in 1985 and needs to be replaced. Voters on Tuesday approved a 1-mill sinking fund millage for 10 years for Hillman Community Schools. Money generated from the property tax in the first year will go toward repairing roofs and upgrading school security and technology.

HILLMAN — Hillman Community Schools will see upgrades and repairs throughout the next 10 years because voters on Tuesday approved a 1-mill sinking fund millage.

The property tax passed 879 to 803, according to unofficial results Tuesday, and will generate approximately $176,000 each summer, which the district will use toward construction and repair of school buildings, school security improvements, upgrading technology, and other necessary items. The tax will cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $50 a year.

“I’m thankful that the voters approved our request,” Superintendent Carl Seiter said Wednesday. “Now the district can start taking a look in much greater detail about the priorities and what we are going to address first.”

WHAT CHANGED FROM MAY TO NOVEMBER

The district originally sought the millage in May, but that vote failed 273 to 266 and the district’s Board of Education voted to try a second time this election.

Seiter said a big difference between the May election and Tuesday’s election was the time the district had to form a committee to get the word out.

Community members Frank Lis, Nina Kennard, and Jana Post were instrumental in helping the district talk to the community about the sinking fund for this election, Seiter said. He also said this election had more of a collective effort from the community.

“There was definitely some different avenues that the committee was a big part of, and the yard signage was a big, constant reminder for people,” Seiter said. “I’m just grateful for the positive outcome and the positive feedback that we’ve heard from many community members.”

When the sinking fund millage failed in May, Seiter told The News that he did not get the message out enough. But, this time, with the help of the committee and the efforts that went in, the millage passed.

FIRST PRIORITIES

Seiter said the first issues that will be addressed with money from the tax are the roofs of both of the district’s buildings, security issues at the buildings, and replacing computer labs.

The roof at Hillman Elementary School was put on in 1985 and the shingles have exceeded their life expectancy, while the roof at Hillman Jr./Sr. High School is 18 years old, with leaks in some areas.

To upgrade school security, Seiter said he will be attending a meeting to learn about what’s available for security, because each time a school tragedy happens, the lineup of best practices for schools can change.

“I want to align the district with the best practice when it comes to the security, beyond the normal secure all the doors kind of thing,” Seiter said. “We absolutely, in my mind, got to address some of the security issues which means outer doors will be replaced. It means security cameras within the buildings and outside the buildings.”

Seiter said the board has talked about going to one-to-one computing, in which each student has a computer available to him or her throughout the school day, but he said it’s important to upgrade old equipment in the computer labs.

Though those are high priorities, Seiter said the money collected the first year will not be enough for everything on the list, but repairing the roofs and the security upgrades will take precedence this upcoming summer.

A 10-YEAR TIMELINE

Throughout the next 10 years, Seiter said that, every summer, the Board of Education will take a look at the current needs and a plan will be developed. He said the needs for the district will change each year.

After that, Seiter said the district will bid for contractors and the district will hit the ground running when school’s out each June.

“We’re going to provide a comprehensive list to our board and then probably some community members and just let them be a part of that discussion about prioritizing those things,” he said.

The district will start planning right away in June. In July, when the first $176,000 is collected, the upgrades and repairs will start taking place.

“We’ll be set to go when we get the money to have some things implemented and replaced before school starts,” Seiter said.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5688.