By Scott Sullivan
How close is close? Try voters nixing Saugatuck Public Schools’ $39.94-million bond request Tuesday 1,044 “no” votes to 1,041 “yes.” Totals were uncertified as of press time Tuesday night. A recount is possible, even likely.
Preliminary totals showed Saugatuck township and city approving the measure, meant to remodel and improve facilities, 467-405 respectively. Douglas voters turned it down 283-241, as did Laketown peers 160-118.
Should the count hold up, it would mark the second defeat in a year for an SPS bond proposal, this one scaled back 21 percent from a $50.7-million request nixed May 8, 2018, 1,005 to 719.
Major changes included scrapping a second-story design at Saugatuck Middle-High School and more emphasis on increasing classroom sizes at Douglas Elementary.
Many ideas from the 2018 request remained. Besides safety and security upgrades (secure entrances, improved pick-up/drop-off circulation and building cameras), funds would have provided new buses plus plumbing, heating, electrical, ventilation, roofing and paving updates.
District officials also envisioned social and physical spaces in line with current educational architecture. The result, they said, would be better daylight and outside views, more outdoor learning spaces and modifying hallways into collaborative learning spaces.
Funds would have also created a new middle/high school band suite, dedicated middle school art room, new science lab area and spaces for new technology and robotics.
Approval would have meant district property owners’ taxes would rise by about 1.36 mills over the 2018 debt tax rate, or about $5.67 per month for every $100,000 market value home.
District officials noted SPS currently levies the lowest debt tax rate in the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and neighboring districts. Even with passage, the local schools would have remained among those in the area with the lowest debt rates, they said.