School officials are hosting four meetings to get a feel for whether voters will support and fix up the other buildings.
At the first session, held Tuesday night at , the answer was yes.
In fact, the residents suggested the district ask for more than the proposed $72 million to make sure the jobs get done right.
"We need to make sure . . . we're actually making a permanent improvement," one resident said.
About three dozen people heard school and city officials explain the millions of dollars of fix-ups the buildings need -- everything from new roofs, new asphalt in the parking lots and new heating-cooling systems to paint, carpet and tile -- and a plan to build a new middle school to replace the aging Center and Albion buildings.
"We have not made a lot of investments into our buildings," school Business Manager Mark Donnelly said.
On the table is a $72 million bond issue that would pay to build a new middle school (about $45 million) and make improvements to the other buildings, including better technology.
But a larger bond issue could address all the buildings' needs instead of just the biggest priorities.
Residents at Tuesday's meeting seemed inclined to go with the bigger issue.
"It's like putting money into an old car that's never going to work," resident Jim Weik said.
Now is the time to build for a few reasons, officials said:
1. Bond issues that currently cost the owner of a $100,000 house $77 a year are being paid off. The $72 million bond issue would cost that homeowner about $85 a year -- an extra $8 that the resident would scarcely notice. A bond issue that would take care of all the building fix-ups would add about $80 a year, or $7 a month.
2. Interest rates are at record lows.
3. Construction costs are down.
4. If the district combines the two middle schools, it can save operating money. If the new school adds sixth-graders, at least one elementary school could be closed, for a total savings estimated at more than $2 million a year. And if the operating budget can be cut soon, it could avert the need for a new levy in 2016.
"This is a time when the planets seem to be aligned," Assistant Superintendent John Krupinski said.
Ken Evans, who chairs an ad hoc Facilities Committe that has been examining the condition of the schools since October, said the problems can't be ignored any longer.
"Doing nothing is not an option," Evans said.
Location of the new middle school is still up in the air. A district-owned 17-acre parcel next to the high school , but there are also problems with other sites, like the existing Center or Albion parcels.
Donnelly said the district is bringing on an architect to evaluate the sites to make a determination.
Ward 3 Councilman Jim Carbone, who helped develop the proposal for a new middle school, said residents seem to be embracing the idea of improving the schools.
"There's a lot of people excited about this," he said.
There are three more meetings to get public input on the idea. The first is tonight at ; next week, the meetings are Tuesday, May 22 at and Wednesday, May 23 at . The sessions start at 7 p.m.