Celebratory cheers filled Old Boys’ Brewhouse on Tuesday night.
More than 40 Spring Lake bond committee members and staff gathered during a celebration as Superintendent Dennis Furton announced that voters approved two bond proposals, which costs a little more than $54 million.
Tuesday’s election was a second chance for the district. In November 2013, voters defeated a nearly $60 million bond proposal by 89 votes.
Spring Lake schools supporters hugged one another and clinked their glasses together in celebration of Tuesday’s success.
“I am so happy!” exclaimed Caroline Highhill, a kindergarten teacher at Holmes Elementary School.
Voters approved Proposal 1 with 2,072 votes in favor and 1,079 against the measure. Proposal 1 includes major renovations and additions to Holmes and Jeffers elementary schools, renovations to the intermediate/middle school, minor upgrades at the high school, technology upgrades throughout the district, and bus purchases. The proposal costs $49.8 million.
Proposal 2 was approved by 593 votes, as 1,869 voters cast ballots in favor and 1,276 cast ballots against it. The proposal addresses improvements to Grabinski Stadium, new multi-purpose turf fields at the high school for lacrosse and soccer, upgrades for the existing practice fields, additional parking, and restrooms at the high school tennis courts. It costs $4.47 million.
The passage of both proposals increases the district’s current debt from 6.33 mills to 7 mills until the bond expires in 2043. The owner of a home valued at $120,000 will pay an extra $40.20 annually.
Spring Lake Middle School Principal Aaron West said Tuesday was a good night for Spring Lake schools and the community. He said Proposal 1’s improvements will be in place for the next 50 years, and Proposal 2 will impact countless extracurricular programs and students.
David Parsons, a member of the bond committee, said he felt “very confident” going into election night because of the efforts made by committee members. Parsons said they went door-to-door to inform voters about the issues on the ballot and the needs facing the district.
After voters defeated a proposal last fall, the district also sought feedback from voters, including their thoughts about the proposal and ways the district could approach future bonds differently.
Spring Lake Township resident Dave Sella said he thought November’s proposal looked out many years, which may have been a little much for the community. He said Tuesday’s proposals were “scaled back” and “more sellable.”
“This is much more tactical,” Sella said.
Sella, who has children at Spring Lake’s middle and high schools, said it’s important to invest and have a good school district because people looking at homes use school districts and neighborhoods to help guide their decisions.
“You can’t underestimate having a good school foundation,” he said.
Mike McSheehy said he liked that the bond was scaled down and split it into two proposals. The Spring Lake Township man, whose children attend Holmes and the middle school, said he thought the older buildings “definitely” needed Proposal 1.
While Judy Ball said the district doesn’t necessarily need state-of-the-art facilities, she does see a need for upgrading the aging buildings. The Spring Lake Township woman said secure entrances stood out the most in the proposal.
Currently, visitors are allowed into the buildings, but they aren’t ushered directly into the office. Ball said they also need larger spaces for some of the classes, such as art and music.
Ball, who is a retired principal and doesn’t work for Spring Lake schools, said she works with a local college to place student teachers in districts, and she’s been to Spring Lake’s schools.
“The need is real,” she said.
School board President Paul Aldridge thanked the voters for their “overwhelming support.”
Aldridge said the next step is for architects, some of whom were present at the celebratory gathering Tuesday night, to work with staff and community members on what the school renovations will look like and how the buildings will function.
Furton declined to comment on Tuesday night because the Tribune took pictures of the group’s celebratory gathering at the public establishment.