Community seeks bond answers

Parents and community members sought answers Tuesday about the Spring Lake school district's upcoming bond proposal.
Krystle Wagner
Oct 9, 2013

Throughout the Spring Lake Public Schools’ bond presentation during the Jeffers Parents-Teachers Organization meeting, some of the more than 25 attendees demanded answers about the costs, and they asked why make various improvements instead of repairing current facilities.

On the Nov. 5 ballot, the school district is asking the community to consider a $59.8 million bond to fund a new elementary school campus; enhance technology districtwide; make upgrades at the intermediate/middle school, high school and other district buildings for energy savings; and replace furniture and purchase new buses. It would also move athletic fields and a bus/maintenance facility to the high school site.

The bond would be paid over 30 years. It would raise the district’s debt levy to 7 mills, an increase of 0.569 of a mill. The owner of a $120,000 home would see an increase of $34 a year in property taxes.

Superintendent Dennis Furton asked the audience Tuesday night to consider their children, grandchildren and neighbors as they look at what the district would do with the bond funds.

Furton related the nearly 60-year-old Holmes and Jeffers elementary schools to a bridge in Honduras that became irrelevant after a hurricane changed the course of a river it covered. He said times have changed and the buildings don’t meet the needs of today’s learning.

“It doesn’t have the relevance today that it needs to,” Furton said.

Jill Parker, a Jeffers Elementary School parent, asked if the school district's ability to enter the Michigan School Bond Loan Fund had an impact and asserted urgency for the proposal.

Furton said the state fund allows the district to smooth out its debt over time. Without being in the School Bond Loan Fund, the millage would increase 4.97 mills instead of just over a half-mill.

Furton explained they anticipate the ability to join the fund would close within the next 12 months.

“The school bond loan fund became an opportunity,” he said.

Jeffers Elementary School parent Liz Koches asked what happens if the bond doesn’t pass next month. She also asked if the district would then push a scaled-down proposal.

“What’s Plan B?” she demanded.

Furton said the district currently doesn’t have a Plan B, but they are “going do what’s right for kids.” He said the May 2014 election would be the soonest the district could put another proposal before voters because of election laws.

“We’re not going to give in or give up on making improvements in our district,” the superintendent said.

The next public presentation on the proposal will take place at 7 p.m. at Spring Lake District Library. For information about the presentations, visit



only 25 attendees demanded answers about the costs, i guess the rest of the community did not show up because it,s ok, raise my taxes


People you need to get involved in this situation. You can not let the SL school board just do as they please... like the TWP board has done. Their is several issues being conducted behind the scenes... Like using this money for whats it is intended to used for. You need to ask the questions cause the GH tribune has not printed the fine print issues.


Ok with me to raise mine... go for it Spring Lake...


You do understand that we will pay on this debt for the next 30 years. Our children will not even be in school that long. If we give Spring Lake Schools this bond. They cant ask for another one until 30 yrs from now. This will not just raise our taxes 85 a year but it will be a snowball effect. There will be interest added every year that the debt is not paid off. This pitch is the 7th version of what Spring Lake wants the schools to be like. Dennis Furton wanted to put Chuckie Cheese in the school, to make it more fun for the kids to learn. He promised the 2 principal that they could be a principal of a K-2, 3-4. Dennis Furton has threaten the teacher that if they didn't support the bond that they could look for a job some place else. School board members are telling people if they vote NO, then they are closed-minded, uneducated, and ill-informed. Have you even been to one of the meeting about the bond. The first 5 meeting that were held. The architect's ran them. They gave everyone a list of what was going to be talked about. Then we had to fill in what we thought about that. Dennis Furton is not going to be here if and when the building are built. He is going to leave to go to a bigger school. Our Future will be left holding the bag. There is no plan "b". There is no drawing of what the school is going to look like. There is no model of it. Because its going to change again once Dennis Furton gets his money. Have you ever asked yourself "Why" Why do we need a "super school" Did you know that the ipad classroom do the worst in bench mark testing. That a non-ipad classroon scores higher. What happens in the really world when the kid doesnt have an ipad? How is that kid going to learn? Saying that the building are hindering the education of a child. Well i guess the kids that are graduating this year are not going to college. We failed them by not giving them an education. So yes lets raise our taxes and give Dennis Furton what he wants. Because he never listens to what his staff wants, he just listens to what Dennis Furton wants


If sallyjane54 is a 'no' then I'm a 'YES!' Just sayin! Whoa! And, if Dennis Furton has to deal with folks like this, I'm buying him a drink next chance I get.

Heck, I'm a yes anyway but these types of comments make it easier!


Winston you must have attend the same meeting I have about the bond. You must have heard the same things I did. I'm really sorry that I hindered the education of your child. That your child was unable to attend college since they had such a bad education at Spring Lake Schools. Dennis Furton has had to deal with a lot of folks like this, since he has worked in 9 different districts. Makes you stop and ask your while so many. Why would he want to change the make up of Spring Lake Schools? You must be one of those "planted people" that Dennis Furton talked about. A person that would pop up in the article pushing everyone to say YES. When is the last time you asked a teacher what they wanted for Spring Lake Schools? It is pretty sad when board member meet with teacher and ask what they want and how do they feel about the bond. Then do the complete opposite of what the teacher said to do. So I can take away from your comments you either a person on the YES campaign or a board member. Because if you even attend a meeting you would know what was going on. The paper has only published one side of the meetings. And I would like to point out that I never said I was a YES or a NO. I was just stating facts that have not been given to the public. To make the public aware of what was going on. Maybe you should attend a public meeting and report back. Tell us what your hear instead of reading the comments online. After all it is your tax dollar. And since you are voting for this bond and the Fire Bond is a automatic. That means your taxes will go up at least $170 a year for the next 10 years. I want your money tree.


No plan B? Sounds like our President's plan for health care ... "my way or the highway." I think it would be worth having a Plan B so we can consider our options. This attitude seems a bit arrogant. It does not appear that the super is open to discuss or the possibility that maybe 60 MILLION dollars is a lot for our community. Very sad indeed.


More information regarding the bond proposal can be found on the website for Spring Lake schools at If the website data isn't enough, it also lists dates and locations that voters can attend to ask questions directly to the Superintendent and the Board. As for me, I'll be voting "yes". Paying a little more now will avoid paying a lot more later.


Unfortunately, this information is taxpayer paid for propaganda in self promotion of their cause. I am NOT saying it is in error . . . nor am I saying that it is straight up a bad idea. What I am saying is that 60 MILLION dollars is a LOT of money for our community and depending primarily on information provided by the administration (supporters of the issue) is a bit dangerous.

We have all seen (even recently) how some taxpayer supported projects that were sold to us as great ideas do not necessarily work out as well as the self-promoters would have had us believe.

I hope this all works out for the best . . . I love Spring Lake schools, but I am not convinced more money more buildings are the answer. I believe the core of a good education is foundational learning and good teachers. Everyone likes "fancy" stuff, but you do not have to look very far from our community to find a lot of "fancy" buildings that do not necessarily result in better learning for their students.


Well said christopher. I have viewed the powerpoint many times and while well put together, the presentation has chosen the "worst" spots to portray. Example being the tan lockers. That is the locker room connected to the old pool at the MS that at this point probably isn't used very often. The hallway at Jeffers that is "dark and dull" is probably taken at the worst possible spot. Many hallways there are bright and allow for natural light...heck the north side of that building is all windows! Also the location of the picture of the "unsecure" location at Holmes fails to show the office just to the right of where the photographer is standing. There is no way anyone is getting by without being seen. Those are just a few examples of how easily this was portrayed as a MAJOR issue that MUST be corrected. One other interesting thing stated was that the halls will be used for small group instruction...many schools don't even allow teachers to place students in the hall anymore because they can't be monitored...I just found that concept ironic.

Again I think SLPS is phenomenal. They churn out a great product in our kids and have an amazing staff that goes above and beyond what they need to for our children, however I also think that this proposal goes above and beyond what is needed. One of the greatest parts of SL is the small elem schools; one in the village and one in the township...let's keep it that way.


My kids are going to attend SLPS and I'm all about keeping this school system at the top! I'll pay for it.


The question is are the new buildings, fields, and upgrades needed. The board and administration will tell you they all are but I struggle with wants vs. needs. Would I like a football field with "turf", absolutely. Is it needed, probably not. I understand the current field cannot be changed to turf but I know the grass works fine. Would it be nice to have the field at the high school, sure, but again is it causing that many problems at it's current location?
The Middle School was built in the early 60's yet it can be upgraded unlike the elementary schools. At some point though the Middle School is going to need to be replaced because it will be outdated based on its age.
As an alum I am finding it difficult to approve the bond issue. There are things in my own life I want but not everything is needed. I love Spring Lake but feel the "Powers to Be" are going for it all when it certainly could have been scaled back to what is needed vs. what is wanted or desired.


New buses??? or buses for the band that can store their instruments underneath like a Greyhound bus... Now really technology... laptops for all kids???? I'm all about kids education.. but do we see this type of capital being spent in the private schools or academies... Several of the school district in this county have come up with community grants for tech stuff or found private businesses to donate for personal computers... and they found what kind of issues these computers have cause in the classroom with open net. I say if the state wants to pay for it across the board then go for it... Remember when we had to buy a calculator for our children... The Texas instrument only


I guess you missed the GHT last week that Featured St. Mary's students with their notebooks??? Yes, they were provided by the school. It's pretty cool that those students are keeping up with technology. Face it, it's the way of the future.


When I was a kid, we were fortunate to have a computer at home. For others who weren't so fortunate, we had a computer lab.

It's cool, but is there some demonstrable pattern of young people growing up technologically illiterate when they don't have laptops provided?

By the way, laptops are decades-old technology. If anything, they should probably get tablets and smartphones.


Some do not realize the costs involved to maintain the older schools. The buildings are old and cost a fortune to maintain. When you think about the wiring alone and the technology that has expanded throughout society, these buildings are not equipped to handle the load needed to educate the students. Over the past 50 years we have learned so much about air quality, lighting, etc that is necessary to ensure a healthy environment. It's not hard to realize that new schools are needed for the community.
Better updated schools improve property values too.


"handle the load desired to educate the students"

Fixed that for you.

I was educated in the 90s in schools built in the 60s and am now a successful college graduate, and by no means technologically illiterate. We used computer labs and didn't have wireless data points in every classroom for our laptop computers.

I can certainly believe that maintenance needs grow over the years, but is it really enough to support a cost/benefit case for replacement?

Given the comment about St. Mary's, is this a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses concern?

How do those Europeans manage to educate their young with all those stinky old buildings that don't get replaced every 20 years....


I have spent time watching Mr. Furton's presentation, looking over information on the SLPS website, and have also spent time in all 4 buildings at SLPS. I can say that while all of these ideas would be GREAT for kids, what I know about SL is that by no means is everything here being proposed NEEDED for student growth and learning.

As I watched the presentation, it was clear from the start that it was much like a political commercial. Mr. Furton also discussed how awful the current ES buildings were at 55 and 60 years old, yet the IS/MS is 10 years newer and that structure according to Mr. Furton has solid bones and will work well for the next 40 years. I was unaware that the 10 year span in the 50s and 60s changed building lives by almost double!

I will agree totally that new roofs are needed, new boilers are needed, upgrades should take place, buses should be purchased. My issue is with synthetic turf fields, relocation of bus facilities that don't need to be moved (many districts don't even have a mechanical garage), relocation of athletic fields, and a presentation that while well put together, was not an accurate depiction of what SLPS really offers.

Unfortunately as demonstrated by the aquatic millage, SLPS has a tendency to offer option #1 as the "Cadillac option" and option #2 will become the more realistic option (remember the proposed MS 15 years ago that was INSANE).

I obviously have my opinions and have voiced them, but I encourage you to simply do your homework before going to the polls. If in your mind you feel it is right for the community, vote yes. If you think we can be more practical, have them go back to the drawing boards. Either way it's our voice and lets have it heard.


I agree . . . we do need to invest in the future and the education of our children . . . but this plan does not seem to be a reasonable approach. You are right about the "tendency" to offer a Cadillac option first. And then become more reasonable later. I know this is happening all over our state. I believe it is happening in Muskegon this fall. The college had requested a "pie in the sky" idea that failed. This year they came back with a VERY good proposal to accomplish much the same things for a fraction of the cost.

Those of in Spring Lake can be sure that there is a more reasonable approach out there. I would say that if the superintendent is not will to talk about a plan B now, it is important that we send a message of NO in November so that the administration will take a less arrogant stand and be willing to give the voters a true option instead of the "all or nothing" / "my way or the highway" approach. It is time to look at options so we can keep SLPS one of the best in the nation without saddling our children with such a huge debt burden. Remember that once all of these facilities are in place there will be future maintenance and replacement costs. By the way, AstroTurf does not last forever. When this was considered recently at another area school district, it was figured out that over the life of the turf (while figuring the number of home games), the turf would cost more than $6,000 per game. I am not sure what the turf number is in this proposal, but it would be interesting to calculate out.


Given that the Varsity, JV, Freshmen, 8th Grade, 7th Grade, and youth football teams would play home games on the field and or two of those teams will practice on it daily...and that the Varsity and JV LAX teams would play home games on the field and practice on it daily...and that marching band would practice daily on the field throughout the fall...and that the grass would not need to be mowed, fertilized, watered, or guess is that your $6,000 is just a wee bit off. Per hour of use for the synthetic vs. natural grass is the factor to consider...and very dramatically favors synthetic. That means more money to spend on classrooms (which means learning).

You should think about things before you comment - if you care about SLPS, more facts and less 'bad math' would benefit you and anyone like me who wastes his time reading these comments.


"all these ideas would be GREAT for kids" is all I need to hear.


Let's assume the bond vote passes, a big assumption I know. Now the district has two elementary building demolition projects to handle. It is my understanding that the current plan calls for Holmes and Jeffers to be demolished and the sites cleared for re-sale. How much of the bond budget will be spent on demolition costs, material disposal, property cleanup, environmental property transaction reports, legal fees, realtor fees for re-sale, and the unknown expenses that almost always occur when dealing with demolition.

I'm interested in learning about the administration's plan for dealing with the legacy costs of Jeffers and Holmes. Spring Lake Schools does not have any experience in school building demolition and property clean-up. How are they planning to handle this phase?


This is a great question. I hope they will respond with a plan for this. It is interesting that the super is not on here answering questions. These are very important questions.


Go to an information session and ask him! Or email...or call...He'd be crazy to spend time on here with us folks...because, you know, we're crazy!


I went to a is built in to the budget.


I guess my question back to all of you nay-sayers is....why not now? We know the elementary schools are old and will need replacement "someday". We know that 10 of the buses are more than 15 yers old and have more than 200,000 miles. If we don't replace them now, when? Do you realize that "someday" would cost taxpayers EIGHT times more if we don't take advantage of the School Bond Loan Fund? I believe that Dennis Furton and the School Board are being fiscally responsible and truly thinking about what is in the best interest of tax payers.


Did you know that all this was known 15 years ago when Spring Lake Schools went for the bond for the High School. Why didn't they ask for it then? Why should we have to be punished know for it? This is not a surprise to Dennis Furton. He knew about this fund when he started here. Yes "someday" it might cost (and i love the capital letter EIGHT time). Someday it might not. But Dennis Furton knew all this when he started here. And it was his choice not to take care of it before. But to wait until the last minute to scary everyone into voting Yes. People are not nay-sayers about it. People are just educating themselves about the bond. And people dont like it. And that is there right not to. The School Boards does what Dennis Furton tells them do it. Its a boy's club. Many of the board members talked to the teaching staff about the bond. The teaching staff shared what they thought, some for some against. And the board did what Dennis Furton told them to do. A lot of things could happen "someday".

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