SL dreams defeated

Just 89 votes stood in the way of Spring Lake’s dreams of a $59.8 million school bond proposal.
Krystle Wagner
Nov 6, 2013

The final unofficial tally Tuesday night: 1,895 votes against the proposal versus 1,806 votes for the proposal.

Among other items, the school bond would have funded a new elementary school campus, enhanced district technology and upgrades at several district buildings.

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

Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton returned calls seeking comment Wednesday morning.

Furton said he was pleased and impressed with an “outstanding” voter turnout as more than 3,700 ballots were cast.

“They were very engaged in the bond process,” he said.

Once the district learned the bond didn’t pass, Furton said his thoughts turned to the group who spent time advocating for the millage and about what’s next for the district. Furton said they will begin looking at what parts of the bond worked and didn’t work.

“We’re going to seek to understand the results better,” he said.

Ottawa County Elections Coordinator Justin Roebuck said the district had a “substantial” turnout with about 30 percent of registered voters making an appearance at each precinct.

“It shows that voters are concerned about the issues,” he said.

Although the bond was defeated by 89 votes, Roebuck said it is a “fairly significant” margin where they wouldn’t expect to see results overturned.

After voting at Barber School on Tuesday afternoon, Spring Lake Village resident Lisa Engers said she felt some items could have been cut from the nearly $60 million proposal.

Engers said she teaches at a Zeeland high school where they passed a similar bond on a second attempt. Engers said her district had to cut “fluff” from their proposal before it passed.

While Engers said she liked the technology portion of the bond, she said parts of the bond seemed to be spent on things not focused on education.

Engers said she didn’t understand closing the two existing elementary schools in favor of one large school.

“The numbers just seemed pretty inflated to me,” she said.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.




"Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton did not return calls seeking comment after the final vote count."

Enough said. The Superintendent exudes arrogance. NO plan B. My way or the highway....This was a vote of confidence for the SLPS leader and he didn't make it.

The schools do need an upgrade and I voted "Yes" but Dennis Furton needs a lesson in humility if he tries this again.


I have to agree. I want to support education in our community and I believe there is a cost to education. However, the more I heard the superintendent talk about the proposal the more concerned I am about the leadership of the district. We are blessed to have one of the best districts in the state . . . and we need to take care of that. However, we need to make sure we also do not focus on the wrong things. Money does NOT equal success. Look at some of the districts (particularly in neighboring counties) that spend MORE money and get less results.

As is normally the case . . . the school district will retract their "no plan B" statement and then start to formulate a plan b. They will keep bringing it back to the voters until it is approved.

I hope the superintendent understands that he needs to be able to consider that "possibly" he may not always be right about everything.


Read carefully said he did return calls.


um....they changed the article. I read it too, he didnt return calls at 1st.


Yeppir they did.


Not in the original article....that was a direct copy and paste. Trib can confirm.


Or he went to bed so he could be up early for his job. He still has one of those to do.


He needs to be willing to speak to the community ... the taxpayers ... his boss.


The campaigning and intimidation of and through students by teachers and admin people during this election was just wrong! It is not right to tell students that "NO" votes came from people who don't like schools. "No" votes came from people who want better schools through efforts other than throwing money at it!


I totally agree with you. You put it well.




Are you kidding? Have a great day. Peace, love and hope is better.




Lakota said it best: "The Superintendent exudes arrogance". He can take his designer collection of JC Penny suits and fancy socks and use them to soak up his tears today.
I'm not sure who is running whom. The arrogant school board is just as guilty. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The "exploration" committee was hand picked right from the start and they tried selling it and it didn't work. They all need to be replaced. Furton has the board in his back pocket. If this would have passed, what would be the next "necessary" thing on the ballot? We were not fooled.
We haven't even begun to pay for the fancy new High School yet. There is nothing wrong with the present football field either. It's only used about three months of the year. Then the gates are locked. We tax payers can't get anywhere near it. Same with the baseball field. Put a little money into fixing our present locations. Don't build new schools and other unnecessary fluff. We are taxed to death. Wake up school board. We are watching you.


The chocolate waterfalls in every classroom was just asking too much.




There's no arguing with people who wash themselves with a rag on a stick.


It will be interesting to see where Mr. Furton and the school board go from here. In a sense you need to change the mind of 45 voters. So do you just slash 5 to 10 million, describe line items with more details, and have some sort of a more detailed architectural drawing of the elementary school? My guess is that is what may happen.

My hope is though we would see a 60 to 40 yes vote or even better a 70 to 30. This is more than just for the kids, it is for the community. Buildings and facilities should be used and enjoyed by all.


i might ask, why is the football and baseball field locked on the off seasons ?


I've always wondered that about the FB field... GH used to always have their track open to the public (not sure if they still do), but SL never has.


The football field has always been locked. As a kid I used to climb the fence to play on the field. The baseball field is not locked however the baseball coaches will tell you to not use the infield and will ask you to leave if you try and practice on it. I agree that pick-up games may not be the best idea, but if someone wants to practice pitching or field some ground balls, I think that is ridiculous.


Hey "rukidding", I was trying to be funny about his suits. Just pointing out that he tries to out-dress everyone at the board meetings, etc. He needs to come down to earth little. The main point is that he is arrogant. We all know he just wants something to put on his resume when he applies at a larger district someday.


My miss, nice shot!


So glad this bond vote was defeated. While I do agree that SLPS are fantastic the amount of money requested with no real demonstration of need was appalling to me. Being involved in the construction industry in the healthcare field the numbers quoted for construction costs was ridiculous. 27 million for a new school? Zeeland hospital was built for less than that, and hospitals are the most expensive construction due to the sophisticated systems involved. Lots of money was put into these elementary schools for drop-off zones etc in the past several years and they appear to me a facilities expert to be in good condition, and likely have no effect on students ability to learn. This is proven out by the districts academic rankings. This is clearly a wants vs needs issue. Many mechanical and technology upgrades could be done to the districts buildings for far less that 60 million.3 million for a maintenance building? The football stadium is just fine where it is. Spending millions to create another would do nothing to improve education. If a private business approached their finances and facility planning they would be out of business in a very short time. SLPS administrators plan to deal with issues is simply to throw taxpayer money at it. Yet when it comes to our facilities they eliminate support jobs and feel it is fine to have a part-time Facility Manager with no vested interest in the district. Perhaps the operating costs are somewhat related to neglect and no real thought of doing what is necessary to plan and fund mechanical system upgrades BEFORE they are failing. I see little or no strategic facility planning on part of the district, no regard for the upkeep of the districts largest asset, the buildings. Their answer is to ignore the facilities and simply build new ones after the neglect to take hold. Mr Furton seems to be a very poor leader, with no real business sense. While education of our kids should be one of his highest priorities, the districts facilities are paramount in providing a quality education and cannot be ignored. Perhaps if the district did not have a food services professional directing the operations of SLPS, the buildings would receive the attention a experienced manager with a background in facilities management these issues would be addressed before they occur. This is how it happens in the real world.

P'tit Nain

Thank you for your thoughtful assessment. It's helpful to hear from the construction industry viewpoint. You answered some questions I had and confirmed the need to reassess the numbers for the proposed new school and maintenance building. Lets hope that future proposals fall more in line with industry standards.

Our student athlete's comment:
"It would be nice if the drinking fountain in the boys locker room worked. Are they going to do that now?"


The drop-off zones were a gift, and cost you nothing. They were paid for by volunteers who care about your children.


This puts zeeland hospital cost at 36 million. Plus it was built 7 or 8 years ago. While I'm not in the construction business, I would guess material cost increased since. Where did you get your information from?

How much did the drop offs cost?
How much could the schools be renovated for?

Would be nice if you could backup or provide actual numbers.


Double post.


"gordbzz". "Why are the athletic fields locked...?" Good question. Why can't the public use the fields to work out etc.? Ask the Athletic Director. They will make excuses about vandalism etc. If someone wants to vandalize they will just jump the fence. There are too many cameras around for anyone to even think about that anymore. Just unlock the gates and let us tax payers use what we have paid for!


The baseball field is not locked but I can tell you if you play on the infield dirt you will be told to leave.


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