Throughout the Spring Lake Public Schools’ bond presentation during the Jeffers Parents-Teachers Organization meeting, some of the more than 25 attendees demanded answers about the costs, and they asked why make various improvements instead of repairing current facilities.
On the Nov. 5 ballot, the school district is asking the community to consider a $59.8 million bond to 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.
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 owner of a $120,000 home would see an increase of $34 a year in property taxes.
Superintendent Dennis Furton asked the audience Tuesday night to consider their children, grandchildren and neighbors as they look at what the district would do with the bond funds.
Furton related the nearly 60-year-old Holmes and Jeffers elementary schools to a bridge in Honduras that became irrelevant after a hurricane changed the course of a river it covered. He said times have changed and the buildings don’t meet the needs of today’s learning.
“It doesn’t have the relevance today that it needs to,” Furton said.
Jill Parker, a Jeffers Elementary School parent, asked if the school district's ability to enter the Michigan School Bond Loan Fund had an impact and asserted urgency for the proposal.
Furton said the state fund allows the district to smooth out its debt over time. Without being in the School Bond Loan Fund, the millage would increase 4.97 mills instead of just over a half-mill.
Furton explained they anticipate the ability to join the fund would close within the next 12 months.
“The school bond loan fund became an opportunity,” he said.
Jeffers Elementary School parent Liz Koches asked what happens if the bond doesn’t pass next month. She also asked if the district would then push a scaled-down proposal.
“What’s Plan B?” she demanded.
Furton said the district currently doesn’t have a Plan B, but they are “going do what’s right for kids.” He said the May 2014 election would be the soonest the district could put another proposal before voters because of election laws.
“We’re not going to give in or give up on making improvements in our district,” the superintendent said.
The next public presentation on the proposal will take place at 7 p.m. at Spring Lake District Library. For information about the presentations, visit springlakeschools.org.