Editorial

Opportunity knocked, but ‘It’s Too Late’ for Wayland

ACHTUNG: The following is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

“But it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late,

though we really did try to make it.

Something inside has died and I

can’t hide it, I just can’t fake it.” — Carole King, 1971, “Tapestry.”

It is indeed too late for Superintendent Tim Reeves and the Wayland Board of Education to take advantage of a political opportunity that presented itself Monday evening at the school board meeting.

I let myself consider the possibility that a second Wayland Union School bond proposal would be offered to district voters in the Nov. 8 general election. But Reeves and board members passed on that brief suggestion and instead turned their attention to next May as a time to put a $48.5 million bond proposal again on the ballot.

I sincerely believe, and obviously I’ve been wrong before, that the best chance the bond has of passing would be in the November general election.

To be sure, some citizens would protest coming back with a request so soon, but I submit the vast majority of naysayers would vote “no” and register complaints regardless of when it reappears. Their chief problem is that it’s coming back at all.

A little more than 2,700 people voted against the bond on Aug. 2 in a primary election that usually attracts a low turnout. The “no’s” apparently came out in droves, which they will do often to stop anybody from lifting their wallets.

But in the Nov. 8 election there is a strong incentive because of the likelihood the abortion issue and the gubernatorial contest will bring out a much larger number of Democrats. And Democrats are notorious for voting in favor of school millage requests.

Though the vote totals were fairly high Aug. 2, a primary in these parts of Michigan customarily involves candidate races only among Republicans, not a particularly good way to get Dems to the polls or to vote via mail. So the GOP faithful did their duty in the primary and I believe they helped bring down the bond, particularly in the areas outside the City of Wayland and Wayland Township. The urban-rural political split that divides America these days was unmistakable.

But from where I sit, huge numbers of Democrats and more progressive voters will take part in the November general because of the abortion issue and because of the race between Tudor Dixon and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

These are the kinds of voters the schools want to participate. They are a lot less likely to be naysayers.

I don’t think kicking this issue down the road to next May will be beneficial to the school district at the ballot box. The naysayers will be in out in force to protect their economic interests while too many who might normally be favorably disposed will sit it out. A May special election will be plagued by low voter turnout, and poll watchers generally agree that spells trouble for millage requests.

However, as Carole King sang in her biggest hit, “It’s Too Late.” The deadline for filing with the state to go back to the voters is Tuesday, Aug. 16.

My take is that opportunity knocked and Wayland school officials complained about the noise.

8 Comments

  • Editor,

    I have a question for you……….

    Should the board continue to bring this issue before the voter until they get the result they are looking for?

    Cheers!!

  • Let’s be honest here, if the pool was a real issue with voters it would pass as a stand alone bond. Why not split it into two? One for the pool and one for the building upgrades. Really, voters should have the option to decide every individual upgrade the schools want to do instead of the typical behemoth packages that are generally requested and paid for over decades of taxation. Wouldn’t that make for an interesting change?

    • Mike, I agree fully. The WUS board is trying to force the whole deal together to get everything as they want it. I would prefer a cost estimate on demolishing the pool and replacing it in the same building. I believe a substantial cost savings for the pool issue would help people support the deal. We can debate for days on why it has to be the way the Board wants it, however, the addition of yet another building and the elimination of parking spaces, along with the almost 30 million dollar price tag. is the pill most people can’t swallow. And the sales pitch that it cost nothing, since we are not raising taxes is just that…a sales pitch. 48.5 million dollars will come for the taxpayers. There is no free lunch! Split the proposals and see what happens!

    • When the district offered that initially in 2017 the pool part of the bond failed. five years later the pool is even older and even less usable.

  • Regardless of the merits of a November election, It simply isn’t possible to get this bond vote on the November Ballot at this point. As was shared at the Monday, August 8 school board meeting, although the deadline to file for the ballot could theoretically have been met, there wasn’t enough time to have it qualified by the state. (like everywhere, not enough staffing in the state treasury and a long back up for appointments to get the proposal in front of the state officials). To run an UNQUALIFIED bond would have made offering a bond a far riskier investment situation than the district is willing to take. Additionally, when the bond were to be sold to investors it would be a riskier investment for investors, so it would need to be sold at a higher interest rate—meaning that the district would no longer be able to keep the mills at 8.4. Running an unqualified bond would be a more expensive bond, and we know the community is not in support of a tax increase at this time.
    It’s disappointing but I appreciate school leaders making sure they are being the best possible stewards of both the current and (hopefully future!) finances.

    • I appreciate your educational and rational approach to this issue but… How is this possible elsewhere?

      “After a small group of conservative residents campaigned against—and defeated—a millage renewal for a public library near Grand Rapids, the library is giving it another shot at the polls later this year.
      The library board voted on Monday night to send the defeated millage renewal request to the ballot again in November. At the meeting, some voiced concern about the diversity of books at the library, and apparently didn’t realize that rejecting the millage would also jeopardize the library’s ability to stay open.”

      • You would need to ask Mrs. Velie if she has that answer, but library millages and school millages don’t necessarily operate under the same restrictions and rules from the state. so I would guess the reason lies in those details. Or the library is willing to do a nonqualified bond.

  • Good afternoon –

    Not impossible, but extremely tight for a timeline (the filing for November election is August 16, 2022 @ 4 p.m.), and removes the process to review with community input and gather feedback for what did happen and what WUS should look at for the next effort. This input and feedback is important to WUS.

    Additionally, as stated by Ms. Stepek, a November ballot would result in an “unqualified bond”, which is a high risk – high interest funding due to the fact that the bond would not have the guarantee of the State to make payment should anything occur that prevents the district from meeting its payment obligation.

    The result of an unqualified bonding process is a reduced project at higher interest rates to stay at the allowable $48.5m (no change in 8.4 mills), or the $48.5m project (intact and as needed) at much higher interest rates requiring additional mills to meet the payments due to the much higher interest rates (High Risk = High Interest).

    The district is trying to hold the debt mills at 8.4 mills as we understand the desire to not pay more to accomplish important projects. Therefore, qualified in May maintains the project, uses the “equity” as available, and provides for advantageous interest rates.

    This last attempt would have procured all projects with NO increase to debt mills. The value of projects to the district was extremely high, with NO increase in mills to the tax payer.

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