Council endorses upcoming school proposals

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

As yard signs displaying “Yes, Yes” continue to sprout up across Dowagiac lawns, the City of Dowagiac has officially declared its support for the pair of school bond proposals that go before voters next Tuesday.

City council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that expressed the city’s support of the $37 million pair of bond proposals for the Dowagiac Union Schools district during the council’s regular meeting Monday evening. The two proposals, which will be decided during Tuesday’s election, are intended to raise money for massive renovations to Dowagiac Union High School, the district’s four elementary buildings and Chris Taylor Alumni Field.

The resolution passed by council states as follows:

WHEREAS, a strong, quality educational system in important to the overall economic and social fabric of communities, and; 

WHEREAS. The Dowagiac Union School District has been transparent in their efforts to study options for improving aging buildings and communicate their findings with the community, and; 

WHEREAS, the City of Dowagiac City Council has reviewed in detail Dowagiac Union School District’s millage election proposals and find that the proposed improvements are necessary to creating the best possible educational opportunities for the children of the community, and; 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Dowagiac hereby encourage all citizens to exercise their right to vote in the Nov. 3, 2015 general election and support critical improvements to the Dowagiac Union School District facilities.

The council’s approval of the pair of bonds follows a visit to their chamber by Union Schools Superintendent Paul Hartsig during their previous meeting, on Oct. 12, where the district leader gave a brief overview of the proposals and how they will improve the security, safety, infrastructure and accessibility of the district’s aging facilities. Following Hartsig’s presentation, several councilmembers expressed interest in publicly stating their support of the district’s plan.

Following the passage of the resolution Monday, several councilmembers and officials shared their thoughts about what the passage of the proposals could mean for the district and greater Dowagiac community.

“I think this is a critically important juncture in our community’s history,” said Mayor Don Lyons. “If we pass this, we’ve got a pretty clear road to pretty bright future. If we don’t, there could be trouble. Everybody should go out to support it.”

Mayor Pro Tem Leon Laylin expressed similar sentiments, pointing out the advanced age of the high school’s boiler systems and the increasing difficulty on district maintenance crews to keep them in working order.

“If we don’t put in back in shape where it should be, we’re not going to have a school,” he said.

Ward 3 Councilmember Charles Burling said that improving the condition of the district’s facilities will play an important role in improving the reputation of the district as well, which in turn will help attract and retain professionals such as doctors or business executives into the community.

“This is a way for the community to retain some of those professional people in this community, and have them develop Dowagiac as their home instead of just a place they work,” Burling said.

If passed by voters next week, the two bonds will increase property millage rates by 2.5 mills and 1 mill, respectively.