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.
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.
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.