School bond factors to consider

Dear Editor:

Certain recent letters from Pentwater readers seem to assert that passage by voters of the $23 million plus bond issue on behalf of Pentwater Public Schools is going to attract more young families to Pentwater and enhance the school district enrollment.

The primary factors that would attract young families do not, sadly, exist in Pentwater. These factors are jobs and affordable housing. People want good paying jobs with benefits and stability. Pentwater does not have a favorable jobs outlook with the closing of Pentwater Wire and the highly seasonal local economy. Affordable housing is not likely in this community where over half the homes are vacation rentals owned by out-of-town investors and which are utilized primarily in the summer months. Many of the remaining homes are owned by retirees and summer residents as second homes. Some folks have stated that Pentwater Public School is “just like a private school.” The important difference of course is that a private school is financed by the families that send their children there.

Pentwater Public School is paid for the by property owners and taxpayers of the school district. It is significant that the school enrollment is steadily declining and is becoming more reliant on out-of-district students attending as “school of choice.” The parents of these students pay nothing to support Pentwater Public School since their taxes remain in their local districts. Pentwater voters should carefully consider these factors when deciding their own choice in the November election.

LARRY KONOPKA

293 N. Hancock St., Pentwater

Count him in

Dear Editor:

A citizen letter published in the Oct. 7 OHJ characterized elements of the bond proposal as “Dream and Wish List items.” Yup, count me as one local resident who’s “dreaming and wishing” that …

… we have a safe gym so our students don’t sit inches from the competition area, or risk crashing into walls after layups; and a gym large enough to hold athletic conference events here instead of typically having to bus students to other communities, often in poor driving conditions.

… our students who choose to play musical instruments can hear themselves in a proper acoustical setting, rather than on a gym floor with hard surfaces all around.

… adult area taxpayers could use an indoor walking track for exercise when walking outside is uncomfortable or dangerous.

… both students and adult taxpayers had access to a safe outdoor track and athletic field for competing and exercising.

… the school had a properly sized stage where both the school and community could hold theatrical and musical events.

… Pentwater had a 350-seat auditorium, just as we did when there was an opera house and two movie theaters during three periods in our history.

… more relocating families are attracted to our school campus, rather than having misgivings because of its dated and limited academic and athletic environment.

… enrollment was around 325 students – like it was when one bond issue critic attended Pentwater School himself some 65 years ago.

RON BEEBER

605 6th St., Pentwater

Continue the commitment

Dear Editor:

The Pentwater school bond proposal is on the ballot this November. I write here to urge your vote in favor.

My wife and I live in Pentwater. We have adult children who long ago completed their public school education in Grand Rapids. But we will happily pay the modest tax increase here for the sake of the Pentwater community and, indeed, for the sake of the county, state and national communities.

Michigan was a part of the Northwest Territory and was governed first by the Northwest Ordinances. The ordinances of 1785 and 1787 established public education as a primary goal of government. One stated a number of lofty purposes to be undergirded by public education, and the other devoted a truly significant portion of the public wealth to support the schools. By it, every 16th section of every township was set aside for public education, At a time when wealth was often best measured by property ownership, the devotion of that land to public education was an enormous commitment. It provided opportunity for a young democracy to survive and to thrive.

Let’s continue our commitment in that same way today. Our people, all of them, are this country’s greatest resource. Investing in the very best public schools we can afford invests well in our future.

JON VANDERPLOEG

371 4th St. Pentwater

He’s voting no

Dear Editor:

I am requesting that the below letter regarding the upcoming Nov. 2 election in the Pentwater School District be published.

I write to you today as a PHS graduate, a former Pentwater School Board member, 30-plus year local business owner, former Oceana County Commissioner, a property owner and member of other community organizations. I am a dedicated supporter of the Pentwater community and our schools.

I will vote NO on a Pentwater School millage request for the first time in my life!

Here below are my reasons.

Portions of the Nov. 2 ballot proposal include physical plant additions that are not supported by “needs” documentation. I agree that the existing physical plant needs significant infrastructure, functional and aesthetic upgrades. Many code and safety improvements are undoubtedly necessary. I believe a millage for the cost of those needs, and a more modest proposal for additional improvements would easily win everyone’s approval.

Unnecessary burdensome cost structure: Spreading the $23,900,000 cost over 30 years keeps the annual payments lower. But we have learned during the last large bond 20 years ago that financing renovations on a 30-year structure has proven not wise. Will this renovation last 10 years longer than the last one? In other words, how many times will we layer our debt, because these repairs cannot be expected to last 30 years? Finally, a 30-year financing structure costs the school district taxpayers to approximately $40 million dollars.

Declining student enrollment. The past few years reflect a small enrollment decline and future projections do not anticipate an increase. Our “out of formula” status allows Pentwater to invest more than other schools in our area in per pupil spending and the success rate of our students is commendable. Declining enrollment calls into question the scope of the construction. The much larger gym and new auditorium are examples to examine if the scope is too large.

In summary, though I stand in support of the efforts to proactively maintain the Pentwater School’s facilities, the current proposal before the voters on Nov. 2 should be rejected. I compassionately propose a less expensive project.

DEAN GUSTAFSON

410 Chester St., Pentwater

Bond supports needs and community investment

Dear Editor:

On Nov. 2, residents of the Pentwater Public School attendance area have an important decision to make regarding updates and upgrades to our school’s physical condition.

I know the building needs updating as I was the Superintendent/Principal from 2013-16, and we started talking about those needed upgrades then. I know the current gym is not designed for a high school athletic competition space as I cringed over the years seeing focused athletes hurling themselves toward a ball with a brick wall inches away. I know that with needed secure access, the school would love to open athletic facilities to the community.

I know that when the community engaged in extensive visioning for the master plan, a theater represented a desire for the community. We have seen the value of the arts. Our bands regale the community each year, but, unless they travel to another community, they do not have the opportunity to perform in an environment that allows them to hear the acoustical magic of their efforts. I researched the value of an auditorium for our students and our community. What I verified was the impact of students participating in the arts on both their academic and social development. I found research about how a dedicated and properly designed space can enhance that benefit. I researched the community value of a performing arts center and found interesting and inspiring research on the benefits to residents. I considered all the community could do with an auditorium, and the list of possibilities was long and multi-generational.

Of course a bond issue can be seen as a financial transaction, and on a ballot, it is, but we cannot forget that the result of that transaction is not just a modest increase in taxes, it is about our kids and our community. It is a transaction to provide opportunities for excellence, increased safety, opportunity to compete, exposure to the arts and opportunities to have first hand experiences with new technologies which can lead to new career opportunities.

Cementing our ongoing commitment to our kids and community is part of our heritage. I will be voting yes to put Pentwater kids and community first. I hope you will consider both the impact on your taxes, and your investment in the students and community when casting your ballot.

MARY MARSHALL

237 S. Rutledge, Pentwater