Everyone is pleased when we read that musical groups and sports teams are recognized for excellence. We commend qualified teachers who balance relationships with academic content to produce high test scores! Why wouldn’t we all want the biggest and best buildings and athletic fields to demonstrate our commitment to these students and teachers? The following facts provide the answer.
1. UNCERTAIN AND CHANGING ECONOMY: Remaining debt on the High School is $27,575,000. Spring Lake Public Schools website states that if the Bond Issue is passed, the District will increase its debt to $59.8 million over 27 years. Payment on the principal will be $28,445,181 and interest payments will be $34,672,591. The sum of these two is $63,117,772. The proposal also states that the “millage can be changed in certain circumstances.” This means that if property assessments drop, the millage can be increased without another vote!
2. DEFICIT SPENDING IN GENERAL FUND: Currently (2013-14), SLPS are operating at a deficit of $565,000. While this is small compared with schools whose deficit reached millions before an Emergency Manager was hired to stop the deficit spending, it behooves SLPS to live within its means now and stop increasing salaries and benefits! Under Proposition A, passed in 1995, taxes have increased every year. SLPS budget shows that this increase in revenue has been spent on salaries and benefits. With salaries and benefits, the AVERAGE teacher’s income is $80-90,000 per year. Administrators are also well paid, but when cuts were made in spring 2013, the lowest paid teacher’s aides who support teachers and students were laid off, not the higher paid teachers and staff. Deficit spending and cutting services to students is neither good financial management nor good educational practice!
Postponing the Middle School language program until it can be afforded is another example of the need to re-prioritize how revenues are spent.
3. SPACE AND TEACHERS FOR 454 “SCHOOLS OF CHOICE
STUDENTS” : SLPS spends $11,419 per student, while per pupil funding from the State of Michigan is $ 6,966. Fewer students would require fewer teachers. This extra spending is unnecessary and again is not good financial management.
4. STRATEGY TO WIN “YES” SUPPORT: TMP Architects and Barton Malow Construction Management team were hired before information from public meetings, students, and staff were completed. They will be paid only if the Bond Issue is passed. The construction management team includes a public relations person who is advising the District how to get the Bond Issue passed. Staff time, SLPS website and some of the information mailed to voters is paid from the general fund.
5. THE PROPOSED BOND ISSUE INCLUDES WISHES AS WELL AS NEEDS: If the Bond Issue is passed in its current form, many expenses will be incurred that do not affect curriculum. e.g. If turf were not included, the football field could remain in its present location. Stadium lights, a new press box and parking lots are “wishes” and do not support curriculum.
6. TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING EVERYTHING: While there are current needs for upgrades in technology, new buses, roofs and mechanical systems, technology is changing everyday and it is possible, if not probable, that by the time the new buildings are up and running, another upgrade will be needed. While SLPS needs to stay current, who knows how technology will change the need for office buildings and schools in the future?
No one I know is pleased with the current politicians in Washington D.C. , and there is little we can do about it. We CAN express our local concerns regarding increasing SLPS debt and deficit financing. My appeal is to voters to consider the facts, decide how to vote and cast an absentee ballot by November 4 or in Spring Lake on November 5.
A wise person once said, “If a family, a business or a school district lives in good times as they would in poor times, they will never see poor times.” Spending must be limited now to prevent a crisis later!
Bill and Connie Widdis
Spring Lake Township