SL schools start millage drive

In less than two months, voters in the Spring Lake school district will decide a millage that will impact students for decades to come.
Krystle Wagner
Sep 14, 2013


Spring Lake Public Schools is asking the community to consider a $59.8 million bond to fund a new elementary school campus; enhance districtwide technology; upgrades at the intermediate/middle school, high school and other district buildings for energy savings; replace furniture; and purchase buses.

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 district anticipates operational costs would decrease by about $150,000 a year, or about $4.5 million throughout the bond’s 30 years.

Superintendent Dennis Furton said the district's current facilities are dated, access to technology is limited and operational costs exceed what is sustainable.

“When you compare the teaching and learning that occurs today to what we'll experience when the bond is approved, the contrast is dramatic,” he said.

If voters approve the proposition, the district would purchase 25 acres for the K-4 elementary school on the corner of 148th Avenue and Leonard Street.

Although students would share areas of the building, they would be separated into K-4 wings, and each wing would have separate bus and parent drop-off locations.

Jeffers Elementary School Principal Shelley Peets said the new school would inspire 21st-century learning, where current buildings that are more than 50 years old fall short.

“Right now, our buildings are a hindrance to our children’s education,” she said.

Peets said the new school would keep learning communities small, yet children would interact during recess, lunch and other times.

The final building won’t be designed until the bond is approved, and would be developed with staff and community input.

Current estimated costs include the demolition of Jeffers and Holmes elementary schools, and the bus garage. Furton said the buildings are listed for demolition because they aren’t suitable for teaching and learning, but the board won’t officially decide the buildings’ fate until a later date.

Spring Lake Intermediate School Principal Ben Lewakowski said the bond would allow his aging school to receive a facelift. It would provide a new secure entry, replace the roof, remove portable structures, add a bus loop, upgrade the heating and cooling system, provide an improved lunch service system, and more.

“It’s bringing things up to speed and match the type of learning our kids deserve,” Lewakowski said.

Athletic fields and a bus/maintenance facility would be added to the high school site. Athletic fields would be built north of the existing high school and include a synthetic turf football field, an eight-lane track, multiuse sports and practice fields, varsity and junior varsity baseball and softball fields, a ticket booth, and parking.

The bond would allow the district to replace 10 buses in an aging fleet, which are more than 15 years old and each has more than 200,000 miles on it. The district would save between $50,000 and $75,000 annually in bus maintenance, school officials say, compared to about $9,000 a year spent to maintain or repair older buses.

For the owner of a $120,000 home, the millage would require an additional $34 a year in property tax. The owner of a $200,000 home would see an increase of $57 a year.

As the district strives to engage the community, Furton said they are working on scheduling a time for a large forum to discuss the bond issue.

For more information, visit, or call Furton at 616-847-7919 or e-mail him at



How is a building hindering education?


Good, what's the chance of getting a good answer?


Agreed...especially considering Spring Lake's test scores. I think their buildings are suiting them just fine. I think their athletic facilities seem to be working too...they won the Bayou Battle last night just fine! I may feel different if they had a school layout and weren't hiding a bunch of details. Their idea for technology alone is unsustainable. Good luck to SL and their bond...I think this one might be a toughy.


A victim of their own success? Should they have lower test scores and had lost Friday night you would support the bond? The details that you refer to being hidden - can you be more specific? They've published the square foot of the new building, the projected budget for it, and the features it will include. They've said the specific design will be done in consultation with staff & community. Doesn't seem there's anything to hide, but I'm sure you can illustrate your point with specifics. As for technology, what do you mean by 'sustainable?'


They also said the design and consultation will be done AFTER the vote. Is this the 'new education'? I have never seen a school go after millage for a building prooject this big without actual plans in place to bring to the people so they know exactly what they are paying for.
Would you buy a house without it being built, with no plans in print, and the seller saying 'trust us with your money, we'll include your input later'?? Of course not, that's your money and you want to see the plans first, right.
How about a $59M school under the same scenario? I think maybe not?

And I am with S/M on this one, how does a building 'hinder' education please?


which school bond projects are you referring to? the ones with the actual plans already complete to which you refer? SL has had two bond campaigns (HS & Aquatics) that I have seen as a tax payer and in neither case was there a design...both instances had concepts, general possibilities, square footage, and costs. Not as familiar with GH High School but I'll bet it was the same. Which districts, the ones you mentioned, actually paid for designs before the bond was approved?

I'll leave how a building impacts education to the experts - it seems to me that the educators in SL are in favor of this bond so they must have perspective. Have you checked the district's website? that would seem a better place for answers than here anyway.


I would like to suggest that people that may be confused or concerned about this project or the process PLEASE visit the following:
Then if you are still confused or concerned, ask a real person that is involved. Staff members are well versed in the information, a board member, Mr. Furton himself. Instead of throwing out guesses that are incorrect, just find out the correct information and stop perpetuating FALSE rumors.


Winston my point to the test scores and game win Friday night is that although the district makes it sound as though they are unable to function without the latest and greatest...their results have shown that it isn't the building that makes or breaks the school.

Regarding the details...I am referring to the "bells and whistles" that may or may not be included in this proposal. Surely you have to wonder why this is going to take 60 million dollars...translation is a Taj Mahal school that could in many ways be scaled back. Sure "open" learning environments and tons of bright natural light would be amazing...I'm just not sure how realistic that may be.

Technology...I'm assuming you have purchased a computer ... nowadays the average life is 5 years...maybe longer if you get something good to start or know a thing or two about multiply that by on earth do you sustain that moving forward???

Look if this is what the SL community wants then great...I am all for making the education of our youth as positive and successful as possible. I just personally think that right now this concept is more of a dream and less of a reality.

Tri-cities realist

If we use your numbers of 2300 students and upgrading every 5 years, this could be funded for less than $250,000 per year. (2300 x $500 per computer / 5 years = $230,000 per year). Even if they were upgraded every 3 years the cost would be less than $400,000 per year, a far cry from $60 million. If you loan me $60 million, I'd be glad to pay you $1 million a year. Any takers?

The bigger picture is that while smaller upgrades may be necessary, the price tag for this is too big. This may be their tactic, an age old one in terms of negotiating; ask for twice what you really need, and "compromise" back to it, so the other side believes they are getting a "deal."

And btw, ohreally, I realize you were not trying to justify the spending, my point was that even if these upgrades were needed indefinitely, it could be done for much less than what is being proposed.


It is not about a "building hindering education". It is more about 1960's technology hindering education. How do you handle it when your house gets to be 87 degrees in the summer? Open the windows! Of course! What if there are not windows or they do not work properly. What about the opposite? 58 degree learning atmospheres. Bundle your kids in their snowmobile suits for school? A building can hinder education plenty.


The school district I grew up in on the east side of the state (one of the higher performing districts in the state) never had, and still does not have A/C in any of their buildings. Same windows used in many of the older buildings around here as well. As for heat, we had baseboard heat in the rooms. We all learned just fine, and became productive members of society.

A/C is simply an unneeded luxury that has just come into use in school districts in the past couple generations. Everyone before that got along just fine without it.

If there is truly a problem with heat, then fix it.

As for the technology aspect, those are upgrades that can be completed without a new building.

Like I said in my other post, the local school districts seem to be victim to the consumerist throw-away society. Heats broke? Instead of fixing it, lets replace the whole building for tens of millions more than we will ever save with the new building!

These days, instead of repairing problems, people toss the objects out and buy shiny new objects to replace it. It is a waste, plain and simple; it is no different with a school building.

I guess it must be nice to blow other people's money on unneeded luxuries!


Again, I kindly ask that you make yourself aware and knowledgable on the use of the bond funds by visiting Spring Lake Public Schools' website, click on the "Bond 2013" link and read all about it. What you are spreading on this discussion board is false information and I would prefer people be able to make their choice by having correct information when they vote.


you keep saying go to the website. It sucks, it has nothing. How about debunking S/M's 'false information' on how an existing building can be upgraded for less than a complete new building(s).


I can't help you with anything but asking you go to the school bond website, ask questions of the admin., board members, staff, involved community members. There are many. Once you do that, check yes or no. No more online anonymous bickering over "bells and whistles" one person's opinion over wasteful spending, etc.


It seems that if that is the case, SL should look at a more fiscally responsible proposal then. The age of Jeffers and Holmes are VERY comparable to GH elementary schools in fact GH schools are largely older than SL schools. GHAPS passed a bond 4 years ago at 29 million to upgrade all of their buildings, athletic facilities, and purchase buses. They also have quite a few more buildings than SL. They upgraded their technology infrastructure as well as made those energy saving upgrades all without razing buildings and in my personal opinion, wasting a bunch of money. Again, I believe this is the fancy option for SL and they have hopes of it passing to have exactly as your name states, 1st class amenities...the reality of it though I believe is that they can EASILY cut that number in half and produce those same results that you mention.




$59,000,000 . . . WOW . . .

That is a lot of money for a small community like ours. I think we should be able to have more details instead of a "we will plan once it is approved."

This sort of sounds like the way ObamaCare was promoted to us "pass it and then you will know what is inside it." How did that turn out for us.

This sounds a bit shady ... we need more openness.


$59,000,000 for something where they want to say "trust us" on the building plan. After their lackluster "community involvement" plans from this past year, I think those of in the district should be leery of the idea that there will be true community involvement in a future building plan.

Last year when SLPS was "seeking" input on the future plans for their elementary schools, anyone who offered alternative ideas were painted as troublemakers, outsiders and of little insight.

I admit that I start with the premise that 59,000,000 is a lot of money but I think it is very reasonable to say that without a willingness to show the community plans my vote is going to have to be a no. Let me see some sort of building plans instead of me essentially approving a blank slate.


I participated in the planning sessions and never witnessed anything but the community giving input and the district listening. The plans reflect what I heard the community say they wanted at those sessions. As I asked above - how much more specific should the district be than to publish the square foot, budget, and features? Of course they've put together a theoretical design as well. Seems that there is no lack of willingness to provide as clear a picture as possible without incurring the expense of paying an architect from its regular budget for the service of designing the exact building it will build. I'm not for paying architects from the regular budget - times are tight enough as it is.


Sounds like you were in a different place. There was a lot of closed door sessions before hand. It was NOT a community plan. It was a here is what we have. We will listen to you ... but not alter our plan based on your views. It is very sad to see those in charge pushing against the community.


I would like to suggest that people that may be confused or concerned about this project or the process PLEASE visit the following:
Then if you are still confused or concerned, ask a real person that is involved. Staff members are well versed in the information, a board member, Mr. Furton himself. Instead of throwing out guesses that are incorrect, just find out the correct information and stop perpetuating FALSE rumors.


So how does a new building improve education? Seems that is the job of the teachers; not some inanimate object such as a building...


Lower costs in heating/cooling & maintenance means more spent on classrooms & learning...seems simple.


So, they want 58 million to save the district 4.5 million in maintenance costs over 30 years? With some of that 58 million going to athletic facilities, which have absolutely nothing to do with education?

I could definitely see the school getting taxpayer money to repair heating/cooling/updating existing technology, but spending a boat load of money on a brand new building and athletic facilities 'just because it will improve education' is absurd and seems like a sham.

You can just as well teach students in a pole barn as you could in a brand new school building. The building has very little to do with education; the teachers and effective methods of teaching DO!

Seems the local school districts have become victims of the consumerist, throw-away society we live in; always wanting more (flashy new buildings and athletic fields), even though they already have what they truly need.

A much more effective way of teaching is to get the students out in the real world, take them for tours of factories, power plants, businesses, etc.., and let them learn through actually seeing where the skills they learn in the classroom are applied in real life. Schools used to do this; now it is all about test scores in order to get more taxpayer dollars. More effort and money needs to be put into actually getting the students engaged in their studies rather than having teachers stand in front of the classroom and drone on while reading out of a book in preparation for standardized testing. Kids do not truly learn that way.

Tri-cities realist

Or the teachers playing a "lesson" on video, while they... update their Facebook page, I've seen it happen.


Those "drone on" teachers do not exist in Spring Lake! Teachers and true educators are not the ones pushing for more testing, those are the folks in Lansing that have been elected to fix the problem that was evidently not there in the good old days when you were given tours of factories and taught how to turn a screw instead of learning about it from a teacher. You are confusing Ferris Bueller's teacher with the outstanding educators in Spring Lake that have made it what it is, a top school in the country.


on the subject of lower costs, how in the name of Hades does a 'group' of elementary (my dear winston) buildings cost less to heat/cool or maintain than a single building? (Architect major here, so answer carefully)


The plan is for 1 elementary building. Updates to the others. You are correct with that.


You would be wise to do some research into learning spaces and how students learn best. In order for teachers to teacher the 21st century learner, comfortable collaborative spaces where students can communicate both locally and globally are a must. Currently, we do not have that.

Tri-cities realist

I hope you are not an edumacator.



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