Phone: (616) 786-2050

Letter from the Superintendent: November 2018

November 2018

Dear Friends:

SUBJECT:  Residents reach decision on 2019 bond proposal

What do you do when you have a variety of school needs and a way to finance some of them without increasing the current millage rate?

Here at West Ottawa Public Schools, we go to community residents, lay out all the options, and ask them to tell us what we should do.

We did exactly that over three evening meetings these past couple of months and the answers came back loud and clear: We should go for a $98-million bond proposal next May to finance the most important of those needs.

So, that’s what the West Ottawa School Board decided to do. It will place the $98-million bond proposal on the May 7, 2019 ballot and, if approved, will make those improvements over the next ten years.

How can we afford to do that so close to the $90-million bond that voters approved in 2014? As we explained to residents during the meetings, an improving economy; aggressively paying down our debt; plus tightening our financial belts, as much as possible, without harming the education our children receive; has allowed us to pay off prior bonds much faster than we thought we could.

We thought the fiscally and educationally responsible thing to do was make some of the improvements we need to make while we can afford to do so without increasing the millage rate. That’s a little like homeowners making home improvements now while they can afford it, instead of waiting until their house is so much in need of repairs that it is beyond their financial capability. It’s the fiscally sound thing to do.

We asked residents at the community forums if we should go to voters with a bond proposal and, if so, should we ask for $98 million or less than that, and when we should put the issue on the ballot. The response was nearly unanimous: We should seek the $98 million and the sooner the better to take advantage of the current economic climate.

To seek out how district residents felt about a bond proposal, we conducted a poll this past summer that determined 65 percent of residents would be in favor of a $98-million bond proposal – almost identical to the 68 percent approval of the 2014 bond.

Of course, deciding which improvements to make now, and which ones we could hold off on doing, is never an easy decision to make, especially when you’re looking at $170 million in needs identified by architects. Community residents helped us do that by telling us what improvements are most important to them.

The improvements they and the School Board decided we should make with the $98 million are:

  • A new Performing Arts Center
  • Make secure entrance improvements at the North and South High Schools
  • A new athletic stadium
  • A new PreK-5th grade elementary building, which would become our second school east of US-31
  • Harbor Lights classroom improvements
  • Sheldon Woods secure entrance improvements
  • Sheldon Woods plumbing upgrades
  • Waukazoo mechanical upgrades
  • Elementary classroom casework (cabinetry) upgrades
  • District paving upgrades
  • District playground improvements
  • District roofing replacements
  • District technology
  • Elementary restroom upgrades
  • Band/orchestra instruments
  • Five buses

Paying for such improvements with bonds allows us to continue to use our general fund for the education of our students and holding steadfast to our goal of making sure they are “college, career and life ready.”

We want to thank the parents who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the three meetings and offer us their opinions on such important issues to our community. And we continue to thank the community at large for their strong support behind the education of all of our children. We think few things are as important to the future of our students and our District.

My Best,

Thomas K. Martin
Superintendent of Schools
West Ottawa Public Schools

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