Dear Wayland Union Schools Community:
Most of you know me in my official capacity with the school system, but I am also a community resident (since 1985 with a small East coast break due to my husband’s job relocation) and a parent of past WUS students. I am speaking to you as a community member.
When my husband and I were moving to this area we chose Wayland because of what the school district had to offer. We could have chosen any district somewhat close to GR, but Wayland stood out for what the district had to offer.
I have been out talking to a lot of you and listening to your concerns and wanted to put down some final words as those waiting for the polls to open for in-person voting, or have yet to drop off their absentee ballots, make their plans for voting day, May 2.
To those who think this bond should be split to pool and all other projects – One can’t happen without the other unless the district shuts down the pool and just moves forward without it. Why would we do that? We are literally surrounded by bodies of water and there isn’t any other resource to learn to swim at that is not 30 minutes away, one way.
The district isn’t building an Olympic-sized pool, but a reasonable community/competition pool with easy access for the young to the old to access for every day, all day use by those playing, those exercising, and those competing. To those who think this bond shouldn’t be a priority due to other issues that plague schools these days – The areas affected by this bond address the whole child. Without a doubt athletics, extracurricular, and electives provide a reason for many students to get to school. This doesn’t make it right or wrong, it is just the way it is.
The programming, to be improved or added in this bond, supplements the academics already offered. For many students these areas of added study provide that niche that helps the student find their path in life, and sometimes their path to lasting friendships and associations.
To those who think this bond shouldn’t be on the May ballot due to timing – The district could not make the November timeline for State of Michigan qualified bonds. The process is multi-stepped and requires an appointment with the State of Michigan Treasury. We just made the deadline to put this on May’s ballot.
If this bond doesn’t pass, pricing will go up, these projects will be more expensive, and the district will have to ask again for more money to accomplish all of these needed projects. To those who think this bond shouldn’t be completed as written – Did you take the tours available to you on your schedule? Did you see how crowded the band room is and that they share that space intended for band in 1974 with orchestra a program that didn’t become a reality until late ‘90s? Did you note the choir room that is too small for the growing choir program? Did you note that Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) was carved out of the wrestling room?
Did you note that award-winning high school robotics goes to the middle school to prepare for meets and/or their own homes/garages? Did you note that auto and wood shop are still integral to the career programming and haven’t been updated since 1974?
To those who think it was good enough for me and should be good enough for current students – 1974 was a long time ago. The HS rooms in this Bond project were great for you if that is when you went to school at WUS. But that was 48 plus years ago. The rest of the HS has seen work completed with other bond projects. This work needs to happen to improve safety, acoustics, and to meet current programming needs.
To those who wonder why these projects haven’t happened before now – bonds are very specific, a district can only accomplish what is approved of by the State of Michigan in every bond application. The district has completed all work as specified by previous bonds.
To those who wonder why not Gun Lake Casino money to pay for these projects – The district has averaged $1.6 milion in casino revenue since 2012. Casino funding provides about 5% of the district’s revenue or $1.6 million on average. The funding is split three ways to Instructional Support (25%), Community Support (25%), and Capital Outlay (50%). Capital Outlay funding is then about $800,000 a year. Of this, $300,000 is the science wing payment.
This Leaves $500,000 to address items on the 1 – to 12-year project plan list or what we would call large projects. Instructional support provides iPads, Odyssey of the Mind, LEGO, Robotics, school nurse and buses. Community support provides student’s supplies (crayons, paper, markers, etc., parents don’t have elementary classroom supply lists!), field trips, athletics, reduced preschool fees, community education support as well as Fitness Center/pool management.
Public Improvement has paid for smaller projects such as a new high school gym floor, this year a new roof on the Dorr Elementary cafeteria area.
To those who think I just want to pay less taxes – If this bond and all other future bonds don’t pass, yes, you will start to pay less in taxes in 2028 (small lower amounts at first). That said, your property values and ability to sell at a good price are tied to what the school district offers as compared to other districts around us. Byron Center and Caledonia home values are what they are in large part because of the school districts in those areas. What they are and what they offer draws buyers of homes.
To those that wonder about the “0” mill change to the current 8.4 mills collected – Houses are selling for a lot more in our area (everywhere!) that is taxable value. That change from what those houses were once worth and what they are now is taxable value growth. That growth allows for revenue to the district through the 8.4 mills used to pay for debt. 8.4 mills, allowing for those increased taxable values, allows the district to have more revenue to pay for this bond debt.
The 8.4 mills is enough to make this bond happen. No, or zero, change to what the district currently collects to accomplish all of these projects. Wow!
To those who think the district isn’t thinking about the future needs due to housing growth – The district is considering growth. An enrollment study was completed for the district by a company that has been doing this work for decades in this area. The study looks at available land space and what is happening with that space, the Allegan County birth rate, PCI building permits, WUS’ current and historical growth, and what is happening in districts bordering Wayland.
Additionally, the State of Michigan will not allow districts to expand buildings, or build new, without current growth or at just about capacity. This protects taxpayers from Taj Mahal school projects without basis.
To those who think the bond will pass, “I don’t have to worry about getting to the polls or voting absentee” – You are wrong, your vote is so important. Not only to just getting the Yes votes needed, but showing everyone you believe in this project and in what it means for our students.
A YES vote says “I believe in every child, I believe in our community, I believe that what we do as a school district is important for the very young to the very old.”
Here we are many years later, and my husband and I have never waivered from what we thought of as the best choice for us and our children. I want the best possible resources for your children and your future grandchildren.
— Pat Velie, assistant superintendent for finances and operations, Wayland Union Schools