A letter to Farwell Schools taxpayers

April 25, 2019

Letter to the Editor:
Dear Farwell Taxpayers:

May 7th, the Farwell Area Schools will be bringing a bond referendum in front of the voters that will generate 24.5 million for renovation and repairs.

In today’s world of school funding, the existence of a Michigan school district depends on one thing, the number of students. For each student, a school district gains approximately $7,871 in operational dollars. As new families move into a district, a school with less than adequate facilities will consistently lose students to districts with a newer and updated facilities. New facilities provide a learning environment that fosters student learning in a way that keeps students excited about being at school.

The committee that say they support Farwell Schools is doing their best to reduce costs. I understand their thoughts. I want you all to know or remember some information from the 2006 bond that provided wonderful additions and upgrades to Farwell Schools. As the bond committee worked to address the district’s needs in 2006, a scope of work was developed that originally totaled nearly $20 million dollars. The committee, at that time, decided to cut several aspects of needed upgrades due to cost. The project was reduced to $11.5 million as a consideration of one thing, cost. The committee felt that this was the only way to ensure support from taxpayers. This means that even as far back as 2006, there were needs not addressed with the previous bond. Farwell voters, we kicked the can down the road once. Our kids can’t afford for us to do it again.

The idea of a bond vs a sinking fund is a topic that seems to be an issue with this proposal. Right now, the need exceeds the abilities of a sinking fund. A sinking fund is meant to maintain facilities and address minor repairs. This is something that should be utilized to maintain buildings that are in fairly good shape. The current needs at Farwell, like the replacement of roofs and boiler systems, are far from minor repairs.

Many will question why these needs are not addressed on an ongoing basis. The sad truth is that the period of 2006 to 2019 have been extremely difficult for school districts all over the state. Increases in funding have not kept pace with the increase in costs. During solid financial times, Farwell was a district that maintained a capital improvements fund and many needs were addressed with these dollars. I remember a number of unit ventilators were replaced in the 1964 high school out of this fund. This came with a price tag of over $200,000 back in the early 2000s. Unit ventilators are the end point of the heating system that have coils of hot water used for heat in each classroom. The problem is that when a district is faced with cutting teachers vs depositing to a capital improvement fund, often the staffing and kids take precedence to saving money for needs down the road.

I have always supported school bond votes and will continue to do so. Farwell taxpayers in this community supported me, as a Farwell student, many years ago and I will emphatically support any of our students now and in the future.

Carl Seiter

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