Greetings Benzie Central Community!
So there's a buzz developing in the community around the Benzie Central bond election coming up on May 7th. Last week, we had an open community forum around the issue and we received some press coverage on both UpNorthLive and 9&10 News, and it was also featured on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Of course, our local Benzie Record-Patriot has also provided ongoing coverage as well and has had several articles not only related to the recent events, but to those leading up to our decision to seek the bond in the first place.
As these events have unfolded, I've been hearing lots of questions about our decision making process and why we settled on the solutions up for voters' consideration. Here's a few common themes that I'd like to address..
1. Why not just renovate Platte River or Crystal Lake instead of building a brand new school?
- This is a good question and there are a number of reasons. Remember that a large committee, made up of stakeholders from around our region grappled with these issues before presenting the recommendation to our Board of Ed. What we collectively recognized was that both of these older buildings had major long term issues and would require millions of dollars to renovate. While the renovation costs initially may be lower than new construction, over the long term, the building(s) would continue to need far more ongoing maintenance and be far less efficient than a new building. While these practical reasons are important, we also strongly considered the educational needs of our kids. As anyone can imagine, education (like most things) looked FAR different in the 1950's when these buildings were designed and opened than it does today. A new building will have design considerations to incorporate our growing understanding of how children learn.
2. It seems like we're always being asked to pay more... Why does the district need this?
- I don't know many people who genuinely enjoy paying taxes. That is why we at Benzie Central believe very strongly in being good stewards of the dollars afforded to us. We want to ensure we are not being extravagant with our spending while still affording our children the world class education they need to be successful in the future. Folks need to know that, overall, Benzie Central is currently levying 2.5 mills for capital projects and expenditures. We are asking residents to commit to 0.5 mill additional, for a grand total of 3.0 mills over the next 30 years. Statewide - the average millage amount people pay for capital projects in their school district annually is approximately 5.4 mills. Even with this proposed increase, Benzie Central residents will pay over 40% less than the average Michigan homeowner for the district's capital needs. Around our region, Benzie is right in the "middle of the pack" related to millage rates and will continue to be there with this modest proposal.
3. Why should someone who doesn't have kids in the schools care about or support this proposal?
- While I certainly hope that people do care about what happens to the children in their community, there are reasons well beyond this simply being "good for the kids". The relative strength of a community and the economic well-being of a region is intrinsically tied to the quality of the school system there. While schools certainly cannot alone dictate the future of the region, make no mistake, our success and that of our community are bound together. Quality schools attract young families which in turn attract business investment and promote economic growth. Quality schools also are inherently tied to property values as any realtor will surely confirm as well. The community stakeholders involved in this process as well as our Board of Education have set forth in this project with the mindset of "Strong Schools = Strong Communities". This is a primary driving force behind the commitment to the project.
4. What about our retirees and second-home owners? What benefit will they see from this project?
- As noted above, residents of Benzie County are all in this together and all benefit from the betterment of our community. Whether a resident is part-time or full-time, retired or working, young or old, generational family or recent transplant, we all hold some common value and affection for this region and recognize what a privilege it is to call this amazing area home. Ensuring that the next generations of young people in the county have a quality education is an investment into the future of our county, as we need educated and motivated young people to continue to help invest in the region to keep it thriving. We want ALL Benzie Central residents to be active with our school district.
If you have other questions or concerns, I invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll continue to update our FAQ document online and see about answering them directly.
Thanks for reading!