By Scott Sullivan
A community survey commissioned by Saugatuck Public Schools Sept. 13-29 shows district residents about equally divided over another $40-million bond proposal to remodel and improve SPS facilities.
John Cavanaugh from EPIC/MRA, the independent Lansing-based research firm which conducted the survey, told the school board and residents Monday that based on 353 responses to its survey asking residents how they would vote on a similar ask in the March 2020 presidential primary election, another close defeat might ensue.
Voters rejected a $39.95-million proposal, which would add 1.67 mills to their property taxes, May 7 this year, 1,044 “no” votes to 1,041 “yes.” It represented a 21-percent scale-back from a $50.7-million bond request also nixed by voters 1,005 to 791 in May 2018.
Nearly all the respondents (94 percent), reported Cavanaugh, said they had voted in the May 7 bond election, 53-percent “yes” to 47-percent “no,” an outcome at odds with the actual returns.
For purposes of providing some measure of predictive, value, he said, the survey data were re-weighted to produce a 48-percent “yes” to 49-percent “no,” to more close align with the May results.
The top three supported facilities improvements, of 16 tested, were for:
- $1 million for building security at Douglas Elementary School;
- Just under $2 million in Saugatuck Middle/High School building security; and
- $500,000 for five new buses to replace ones that have surpassed their useable life.
The three most opposed:
- Just over $2 million for the existing fitness and locker rooms in the high school gym to be renovated, additional fitness center space added and an ADA-compliant elevator to the gym mezzanine installed;
- $1 million for the district administration office to be moved to a small new addition at the middle/high school, allowing the existing breezeway to be enclosed to provide a secure entry to the school; and
- Just under $3 million to renovate the middle/high school kitchen, multi-use cafeteria and common-use spaces.
“The board is thankful to community members in advance for their participation in this important project,” schools superintendent Tim Travis said.
Monday’s presentation and complete survey results will be available on the district website, saugatuckpublicschools. com.
Not on Nov. 5 Ballot
Any prospective new bond proposal should not be mistaken for SPS operating and community recreation millages, which essentially renew ones passed two years ago, that will appear on residents’ ballots Nov. 5.
The operating proposal will ask voters to again renew an 18-mill non-homestead property tax on businesses, second homes and commercial property to fully fund the district, as prescribed by state law. It will not apply to owner-occupied residences. The proposal also includes a previously-approved 1.5-mill hold-harmless levy for operating purposes on all property.
The combination of 18 mills on non-homestead property and the hold-harmless levy would generate approximately $6,345,221 for the 2020-21 school year, approximately 68 percent of the district’s operating budget.
If this proposal does not pass, the State of Michigan would not replace the $6,345,221 of funding, which would effectively limit the ability of the local schools to operate moving forward.
The second proposal seeks a 3-year renewal to allow the schools to continue to operate the community recreation program through 2022.
The millage rate would remain the same 0.25 mills approved by voters approved in 2017 and would raise approximately $161,528 in 2020-21 to operate said program. This equates to 100 percent of community recreation funding.