Dissecting the school levy

A proposed $59.8 million bond has voters in the Spring Lake school district asking questions.
Krystle Wagner
Oct 21, 2013

As the Nov. 5 election nears, the school district is hosting community presentations to inform voters and answer questions about the proposition.

The bond would 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.

It would be paid over 30 years and 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.

If voters give the OK, the district would join the Michigan School Bond Loan Fund, which smooths out debt for school districts. The bond’s interest would accrue almost $60,000, and a little less than $600,000 would pay for preparing and selling the bond issue.

One elementary school

An estimated $27.7 million from the bond would fund a K-4 elementary school on the corner of 148th Avenue and Leonard Street in Spring Lake Township.

While the official building design hasn’t been determined, the conceptual model shows separate bus and parent drop-off locations, two playgrounds, separate classroom wings, and shared spaces for collaboration, lunch and gym.

During a recent community presentation, Spring Lake Village resident Joe Vanhoeven said he didn’t understand why the new school would be moved to the township. He said his daughter moved to the area so her children could walk or bike to Holmes Elementary School, and children wouldn’t have that option if the school was in the township.

The move would “take away our little life,” Vanhoeven said. “I’m trying to understand that."

Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said he can empathize with concerned residents, but staying within the village limits isn’t a possibility. He said village sites don't address the current traffic congestion at the intermediate/middle school and Holmes Elementary School at the end of the school day.

The proposal calls for demolishing the nearly 60-year-old Jeffers and Holmes elementary schools along with the district's bus garage. Demolition would cost a little more than $1 million.

Community members will have input when the final decision is made at a later date, Furton said.


The district would spend $200,000 to purchase the land in Spring Lake Township for the new elementary school. District officials have worked with Realtors and engineers about looking into the property because it has a “manageable amount” of wetlands.

Furton said all of the analysis suggests the area is a more-than-suitable site, and the current high school also had to address wetland issues.


Districtwide, students would receive instructional devices and teachers would get new computers. Buildings would receive wireless access points, classroom multimedia systems, a new video surveillance system, and new network and server infrastructure.

After the initial $6.1 million purchase, Furton said long-term replenishment will be revisited at another time.

Middle/intermediate school upgrades

While officials say the middle/intermediate school's entrance is already secure with locked doors, a vestibule would be constructed inside to have visitors directed to the front office.

An estimated $13.8 million would also go toward giving the building newer and more efficient boilers, which are from 1958 and 1967, said Ted Rescorla, the district's director of maintenance. He said the building's current heating and cooling system doesn't keep temperatures consistent, and leaves some rooms too hot and others too cold.

Although the building’s roof is inspected twice a year and undergoes repairs, Rescorla said it doesn’t fix the overall age and leaks. A new roof would have more drains for water and built-up areas to direct water flow.

“We’re just putting Band-Aids on it,” he said.

High school/athletics

Furton said community members helped form the district’s vision for athletics through a vision planning session in the spring. The $7.4 million upgrades would move Grabinski Stadium to the high school with synthetic turf; and add an eight-lane track, athletic events facilities, stadium lights, press box, bleachers, team room, concessions and parking. The bond would also install junior varsity and varsity baseball and softball fields, and a cross country course.

Furton said recent programs such as lacrosse and youth football are creating additional wear on the fields.

As school districts have tightened their budgets, Furton said installing synthetic turf could maintain costs instead of spending more.

A new bus maintenance facility is also proposed to be built near the new athletic complex. It would cost about $2.8 million. Furton said the district would save about $50,000 annually by moving the facility outside of the village.

One bond

Community members have questioned why the district didn’t provide voters with options to vote on instead of one large bond proposal. Furton said it has to do with autonomy, as school districts are struggling to maintain their independence, and the state has suggested consolidating districts.

The bond would allow the district to lower its operational costs by an estimated $175,000 a year, officials say.

Furton said it’s difficult for a district to be named at the top 2 percent of schools, but it’s even harder to remain there.

“If we invest, we can do a better job at maintaining,” he said.

The district will host another community presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Barber School, 102 W. Savidge St.



After listening to the presentations, reading the bond material, and discussing this with residents, my vote is a No. $60,000,000 is just too much money to spend with so many questions and residents upset. If we are going to spend $60,000,000 on a bond issuance, then we should feel really good about it. This $60,000,000 amount will be in addition to the approximate $30,000,000 bond debt still owed by Spring Lake Schools, making the current bond debt $90,000,000. Too much debt for a small school district.


I agree ... after a great deal of study and interviews with various members of the support committee and staff members, it is clear that not a lot of creative thinking and hard choices went in to this proposal. It appears that they put together a wish list and said "let's see if this will fly". I continue to hear that there is no plan B and that there are not other options. If that is true, does that mean that a down vote will mean the district will simply close up shop? I do not think so ... I am sure there will be a plan B ... like most governmental units they first come out with the PIE in the SKY plan only to come back with a more reasonable and well thought out plan once the initial offer is seen for what it really was.


Its not so much answering questions - its the voters actually cracking open the books and seeing for themselves where the past monies went or future monies will go. Asking questions just gets dodged or canned answers anyway from boards and administrators. Remember 911 mileage? They purposely asked for the moon and got it - with no sunset clause. Now its a huge slush fund that no one talks about. In this case the administrators pay will skyrocket - with indirect bonuses of some kind. Paying administrators $150,000 - 100,000 is rediculas when my taxes are already $250 a month! and keep rising! My vote is NO because every time a school district does this their pay and benefits rise huge! Student contact time stays the same. Teacher student ratio goes down. All this will do is raise my taxes to $400 a month- What will it raise yours?


How did you cone up with an 1800 a year increase in your taxes because of this?

That puts a value of more than 6.3 million on your home. I don't think you will be receiving much sympathy.




After listening to the presentations, reading the bond material, and discussing this with residents, my vote is a Yes. The article provided by the Tribune was a nice, factual summary of all that the Bond accomplishes.


What concerns me is statements under the technology portion that says, "after the initial $6.1 million purchase, Furton said long-term replenishment will be revisited at another time." Keep in mind that other bond requests will come up in the next 30 years. We also have a village and township to support as well in regard to improvements. I was wish it was as simple as saying in the next 30 years your taxes will only go up "X" amount of dollars.


We keep hearing it will "only" cost the owner of a $120,000 house an additional $34 a year, but never hear the savings if the proposal is rejected. The savings would be far greater than $34 per year. Once a school district gets millage approved, the district never let's it expire. There's always another plan to replace the millage that is expiring and add a little more onto it. This proposal is NOT necessary!


its a smoke screen people, do you really want your taxes to go up especially in this economy, to support a system is one thing, but maybe they should scrap the new part and just remodel and upgrade and let the next generation worry about it, vote no !!!!!!


You are a complete idiot.


WOW! 1st post @ 10 minutes registered and you call someone an idiot! Welcome aboard, you sure got the freak part right fool!

I think many will follow his lead and vote no for whatever reason, whether they are complete idiots or not.


Why would you join a forum simply to call someone an idiot?


Maybe it is someone on here who had a different user name that everyone already knew of their rantings, so they opted for new anonymity. By the name, I can't wait for what they say about Obama wanting to take their guns away.


Some things most people don't know. Anyone that proposed building on this land had to follow specific guidelines that the township is not following. I know this because I was involved in the original land sale. The land was zoned for a planned unit development, could have no roads or driveways off of 148th avenue. Had to have a massive pond due to the destruction of wetlands. The church and every builder that attempted to develop this land was given so many obstacles by the township that all of them failed, so what gives the township the right to change the rules. Also, the existing storm drain system is defective and can't handle the flow during storms. I know this because I get flooded every time there is a storm and the drains flow south instead of north as designed, this I can prove with video. The map layout on the bond 2013 page is not possible as there is only approximately 48 feet between the two houses on the diagram. The owner at the corner owns part of the land due to the township forcing him to have two acres of land to buy his house. A lot of discrepancies with the township plan are being kept hush hush by the township. Do I want the bond to pass? That's a big NO. Another thing , they want to move the school to this location and then move the fire house farther away, this also doesn't make sense to me.

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