By Sue Moore
Having suffered a defeat of the 14.4 million school bond issue, the Schoolcraft Board of Education members took the high road in thanking the community for coming out to vote in large numbers in the August primary election. The bond issue was defeated by a vote of 768 against, 617 in favor, with 32 percent of the registered voters casting their ballot.
“There is awareness out in the community now [about the school bond issue]. We need to know where the public wants us to go,” said Jeanette Marshall, echoing sentiments of the entire Schoolcraft School Board at their regular monthly meeting in August.
“We want to engage the community and open up a dialogue and discussion,” Superintendent Rusty Stitt replied. “We need dollar figures for the must-haves right away. Let’s prioritize the needs, both short term and longer,” responded board member Kathy Mastenbrook.
“This has been a learning experience,” David Krum, long-time board member chimed in. “We will survive and go on. This is a positive, strong community that is education minded. I’m glad we had 32 percent of the voters show up to express their opinion. We need to know where we failed and do it right the next time. This is a very emotional start of the school year for me, as it will be my last on the board after 29 years.”
“We will be ok for a couple of years going forward,” replied Skip Fox another long-time board member. “We have taken good care of our buildings. Still things need to be done as they are aging. We need to come together and decide where to go in the future.”
Several members in the audience questioned the wisdom of the Citizens Advisory Committee’s (CAC) actions. Steve Sutton thinks a sinking fund might be more affordable to raise money as it is short term with better interest payout. “Don’t be afraid of a millage increase. If it’s a good plan, voters might listen,” he said. Sutton was a member of the CAC but said he didn’t agree with the direction it took during discussions.
Ted Lupina, a 30-year resident of Schoolcraft, wondered why he didn’t hear about the bond request until the final days before the election. “I voted no because you built the Taj Mahal here when we were expecting just a high school. We will still be living here and paying for it, long after the kids have left,” he said.
Jennifer Gottschalk questioned the CAC’s fast track to building decisions from what appeared to be a December 2013 to February 2014 timeline. Rita Broekema, school financial agent, answered that there have been ongoing discussions for years, even prior to Dr. Stitt’s arrival, but no one felt the time was right for a bond proposal until now. The facility study occurred in February of 2012.
For a school the size of Schoolcraft’s, serving 1,100 students, having four buildings to maintain was one of the areas that has caused a financial hardship, Marshall pointed out. “Prior to the bond issue, we looked at closing one of the buildings, but wondered which would be the right building to close. We wanted to wait for more information.”
“This was a process, and I believe that you have to trust the process that the CAC went through. The board listened and accepted the CAC’s recommendations,” Mastenbrook concluded.