August 3, 2017

Be true to your school . . .

August 9, 2017 update!  The votes are in and the 1.3 mil sinking millage being sought in the August 8 election passed by a 2-1 margin!  Thank you to the citizens of Rockland, Greenland, Carp Lake and Ontonagon Townships who ALL passed the proposal.  Thank you for thinking about our students and one of your greatest community assets – the public school building!  ker

The Ontonagon Area Schools have been trying to run with little or no reserve money for some time.  To alleviate pressure on the general fund, a sinking fund millage is being sought so educational dollars won’t be chewed up on needed maintenance (a sad fact that has been on going for a number of years for a number of reasons).  A young lady who made the choice to spend her senior year (last year) at and graduate from another district has been actively working against this needed millage.  The numbers have been explained, yet she published a letter in the local paper to stir the flames of those who she apparently hopes will defeat this proposal.  Here is my answer to her inflammatory letter to the editor:

Dear Editor:                                                                                                                                                       7-26-17

    I will begin this letter by pointing out that I have been a teacher in the Ontonagon Area School since 1975.  My wife and both of our children graduated from this district.  I have been a homeowner and taxpayer in Ontonagon since 1977.  Certainly, I have a vested interest in the topic of local school funding, but I also know enough about the history of our local schools to be perplexed by the tone of Miss Hane’s recent letter to the Ontonagon Herald.

    The answers to the questions posed in Miss Hane’s letter are easily obtained.  The Ontonagon Area School is operated as a public entity governed by a board of education that holds regularly scheduled public meetings.  These meetings are open to all and are covered extensively by the local media.   Miss Hane seems to be asking questions not to seek answers, but to cast doubt about the validity of the sinking fund being sought in the August 8 election.  I will leave the details of the sinking fund to the print and radio media sources that have already reported the numbers and the reasons we are being asked to support this sinking fund millage.

    I  have, and always will help to support important community assets such as the local transit system, the township library, the county ambulance service, the animal shelter, the commission on aging, and the school by voting “yes” to each and every millage request.  These services, like rural school districts, are given meager funding to function.   Operating such services is not getting cheaper.  

    Our school facility is now fifty years old.  As a homeowner of forty years, I can attest to the need for periodic replacement of plumbing, heating, and electrical systems in any structure of that age.  When the large geographical size of our district is considered, the voters made a sensible, safe decision when they passed the millage to help update our aging bus fleet last November.  The age of our facilities puts our district in the same place, funding wise, as our bus fleet was before voters answered the call to action.

     Miss Hane uses the word “millions” while asking for details in “future drafts of the sinking fund millage.”  To me, the undercurrent of her letter says that she doesn’t believe that the Ontonagon Area Schools should maintain the facilities to the standards expected in a community asset as valuable as a school building.  Miss Hane has the right to express her views on the upcoming vote, but when she lists ‘Recent High School Graduate’ under her signature line, I wish she had also mentioned which district she graduated from.

    School buildings are like homes.  One invests in the infrastructure to insure their future value.  Be it services for the aged, the library, the animal shelter (OCAP), or the schools, supporting  them is an investment in a stronger, healthier community.   The decision you and I are being asked to make has to do with providing our current and future students with a safe, healthy school environment.  Our school facility is a valuable community asset, and I believe we need to keep it that way for another fifty years and beyond.

   Ken Raisanen, Ontonagon, MI

(the top piece video isn’t meant to make light of a serious subject – it is just the best match for the title!  Besides, I didn’t even know John Stamos played the drums – and he is pretty good if I may say so)