Kenowa Hills Aims to Try Again for Bond Issue, but Scaled Down

Kenowa Hills Public Schools officials plan to ask voters again to fund school improvements, but this time with a scaled-down request.

District voters will be asked to approve a $55 million bond issue Nov. 3, pending the ballot issue’s approval by the state. The Kenowa Board of Education recently approved sending a pre-qualification application to the Michigan Department of Treasury, and plans to meet Aug. 3 to formally schedule the election.

The request is about one-third less than the $78.6 million ask voters soundly defeated in May. The board reduced its proposal based on a survey of residents following the May 5 defeat by 62 percent of voters.

♥Superintendent Gerald Hopkins said the survey showed “tremendous encouragement and support” for another proposal, and that the board modified it with residents’ concerns in mind.

“Our community recognizes the importance and need for improved safety, security and technology, and the need to address our aging facilities,” Hopkins said.  “This proposal highlights these needs and would allow state funding to go to classroom supplies and instruction.”

The revised request includes building security upgrades, traffic-flow improvements and facility enhancements that were part of the original request. Dropped are a proposed new Early Childhood Center and some athletic upgrades, which Hopkins said got the least support in the survey.

Budget Cuts Necessary

The board also voted at its June 22 meeting to reduce staffing and athletic-event transportation as part of $1.25 million in cuts to the 2015-16 budget. Reductions include 10.5 full-time equivalent teaching and other positions. Another four positions will be eliminated through attrition, including the retirement of middle school Principal Joe Haines being filled by Dean of Students Abby Wiseman.

Other cuts mean both high school and middle school athletes will need to find their own transportation home from away games of up to 50 miles. In the past the requirement only applied to high school away games of up to 30 miles.

The cuts still leave a deficit of $838,000 to be covered by the district fund balance, Hopkins said. The school board also approved taking $982,182 from that fund to balance the 2014-15 budget. The reductions were required by a projected enrollment drop of 25 students, and came despite a $140 per-pupil increase in state aid, which Hopkins called “far short of what is needed to adequately fund education.”

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Kenowa to Ask Voters for $78.6 Million Bond Issue

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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