TK Bond Request to Focus on Security, Technology

Enhanced security, technology upgrades and necessary maintenance are the focus of a “no frills” $6 million bond issue for Thornapple Kellogg voters May 6.

A steep decline in per-pupil funding, compounded by increasing fuel costs and student support expenses makes it impossible to make necessary safety, security and technology investments from the general fund, Superintendent Tom Enslen said.

“We’ve had an unsustainable pattern our last six years,” said Enslen, noting the district’s fund balance decrease from 20 percent to six percent in the last seven years. “Our savings account has disappeared.”

The bond issue would cost the owner of a $150,000 home $50 or less a year. It includes $5,355,000 for renovations and replacement of items, $1.7 million for technology upgrades and $700,000 for transportation needs.

Computers and infrastructure upgrades, safety and security improvements, technology enhancement at four school buildings, plus renovations and replacement of outdated equipment are the biggest costs.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the specific items the bond issue would pay for:

  • Renovations to improve school safety, including vestibules and classroom door security hardware at McFall, Lee and Page elementaries, the Learning Center, the middle school and high school
  • Repaving the bus loop and replacing damaged sidewalks at the middle school
  • Removing the tennis courts, repaving the bus loop, driveway and sidewalk and the addition of perimeter fencing at McFall Elementary
  • Replacing leaky windows and damaged sidewalks, upgrading the heating and cooling systems, playground and kitchen equipment at Page Elementary
  • Replacing the bus loop and driveway at Lee Elementary
  • Replacing and insulating the pool roof, flooring, the smaller gym’s sound system, football field turf, track (including long jump and high jump areas), press box and three scoreboards; renovating locker rooms and upgrading heating and cooling systems at the high school
  • Replacing eight buses which are 10-12 years old
  • Purchasing security cameras at the schools and a new phone system

Enslen cited several statistics to explain why the bond issue is needed, including:

  • The district has the lowest amount of revenue in Kent ISD
  • Cuts around the district made in the last five years include $1 million in last year’s budget to cope with a decrease in per pupil spending of nearly $400 per student
  • Thornapple Kellog ranks 777th of 797 districts in the state for administrative costs

“We don’t have an assistant principal at the middle school,” Enslen said. “It has over 700 kids and one administrator. That’s unheard of. “Some of the class sizes are as high as 37 students in the high school and 31 students in the elementary schools.

The items the bond issue would pay for were determined by a needs assessment the district undertook to achieve a balanced budget. After finishing it the district whittled it down to the most needed items, Enslen said.

The district is planning a community information meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 27 in room 1616 of the middle school

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio

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