Friday, November 1, 2013

Voting No on Spring Lake Schools Bond Proposal

I wrote in an earlier post about the issues involved in considering a $60 million bond proposal by the Spring Lake Public Schools. Decision day is next Tuesday, November 5. In the three weeks since I attended an information session, I've noticed an equal number of "No" and "Yes" signs popping up, and read with interest the letters to the editor. I've also talked with a lot of other residents. Ultimately, I've made my decision to vote no on the current bond proposal, for the following reasons:

  • The elementary school buildings are old. But so is the one I teach in at GVSU. It was built in 1960, has been upgraded several times, and there is no talk of replacing it. Some of the classrooms I teach in are hot, my office gets cold. We endure. My wife and I were in Holland and Grand Rapids recently and noticed several elementary schools that pre-date the construction of Holmes and Jeffers.
  • Renovation over re-construction is possible. My dad was a plumber. He told me over lunch recently that they used to do lots of jobs in old buildings to update boilers and to put plumbing and heating in places where it had not been before. It would be interesting to see the consultant and architect reports that insist the building needs to be redone, or to have some other independent inspectors give a report.
  • Many in the community seem opposed to locating two elementary schools in one building. It's an interesting suggestion, but creates problems ranging from culture to traffic.
  • The sports facility portion of the proposal is supposedly "only" 8% of the total bond. But as one reader of my online column pointed out, 8% of $60 million is still a lot of cash. Plus, the principle of it matters--a neighbor of mine points out that support for public education is a social responsibility even for those who don't have kids in the schools, but athletics is extra-curricular and such funding should be raised privately or separately from a public bond. If the amount is so trivial as the superintendent indicated, then raising it outside of a bond should be possible.
  • One woman investigated the financing seriously and noted that the bond rate and the millage are not fixed. So there is the potential that over the life of the 30-year bond the interest rate could increase, or as has happened in other communities, if home values decrease the millage could increase to cover the difference. In some west Michigan communities, an initial millage of 7% was raised to 12% for this reason.
  • The final reason comes down to attitude. I witnessed and have heard the superintendent being aloof, defensive and arrogant in public meetings. Some people talk of being cut off, not being allowed to ask a second question, rudely told that their comments were disruptive. It would seem that a leader of a public institution would not only want to but would feel obligated to listen to the public whom he proposes to saddle with a 30-year obligation. One wonders if he will even be in the district for the duration of 30-years, or if he will use this "achievement" to seek employment in another district for even higher compensation. 
All of the above is not just my opinion, but repeated comments from many in the community. I think the concerns have merit. The school board did not put forth any alternatives, and when asked about a plan B, it seemed to be of no concern or consideration. No clear plan was expressed for what would happen to the buildings or properties at the current Jeffers and Holmes sites. Everything has been simply put out there in take it or leave it fashion. So, let's leave it. They can come back to us later with another proposal. It would be wise if it reflects the comments and concerns of the actual public who pays for public education.

1 comment:

Abu Saleh said...

Moving Simplified We found out this morning that we may be headed to
Fort Bragg this summer(surprising as we weren't due to PCS for another year)
fort bragg pcs