Battle plans drawn

District seeks support for 10-year, 6.73-mill levy.
Alissa Widman Neese
Jun 18, 2013

Jason Bennett stood before a crowd Monday night to offer a simple but clear rallying cry.

As a contentious levy debate effectively divides the Perkins Schools community, Bennett urged a group of passionate levy supporters to consider it a unifying matter.

“The only way we’re moving forward is as a team, a community and as a cohesive school system,” Bennett said. “Put any personal interests aside and do this for our students and our school district.”

About 125 people gathered in the Perkins High School cafeteria for the kickoff meeting of Citizens for Perkins Schools, the district’s newly formed levy committee.

The group includes parents, teachers, school officials and township residents, all volunteers aiming to promote the district’s upcoming August levy.

The supporter turnout was at least 10 times that of the past levy campaign’s turnout, district communications director Chris Gasteier said.

“I won’t pass judgments as to why, because we’re just happy to see them here,” Gasteier said.

Perkins Schools is proposing a 10-year, 6.73-mill emergency operating levy on the August ballot, nearly 2 mills larger than a May proposal which voters overwhelmingly rejected. The levy would fund day-to-day operations for the district, including employee salaries and benefits.

Although the county auditor hasn’t yet certified its official amount, superintendent Jim Gunner has said the levy will cost the owner of a $150,000 home an additional $310 in taxes per year.

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This past week, board members approved about $2 million in district-wide reductions, including eliminating 15 staff members and hiking pay-to-participate fees to as much as $730 per sport for high school athletes. If voters approve the August levy, the cuts could be reversed and fees will return to normal.

Brandy Bennett, Citizens for Perkins Schools committee chair, organized Monday’s crowd into focused subcommittees with Jason, her husband. In the next couple months, subcommittee leaders will oversee various levy campaign efforts, including distributing signs, collecting funds, visiting residents door-to-door and dispersing information online and in-person.

“Everyone here is very passionate and ready to commit to getting this levy passed,” she said.

The group knows convincing a majority of township residents to vote in favor of the levy won’t be an easy task. Voters haven’t approved an emergency operating levy for the district since 2000, its only levy for new operating money in the past 18 years.

Still, the Bennetts are determined to do all they can to promote the cause. They moved to the area so their two children — now students at Perkins High School and Meadowlawn Intermediate School — could attend Perkins Schools. They don’t want to see the district’s stellar reputation marred by costly cuts, they said.

“There are still questions that need answered and still misinformation which we need to address,” Jason said. “We’re dedicated to doing it as a team. We’re all pulling in the same direction.”



3,900 of 9,600 registered voters actually voted in May, 41% turnout. Approx 65% of the 41% = 27% of registered voters voted against.

I'd like to see a much larger turnout before I agree that the majority of the public voted against "funding new buildings with a levy." I understand that the majority of those who voted don't want to fund new buildings via a levy.

My belief is that elected officials are charged with doing what they determine to be best for their constituents, which may or may not always agree with what some constituents want on a particular issue. If they so choose, those constituents have the democratic right to vote them out.

In particular, school board members, should be looking out for what is best for the students, the community, and the taxpayers.

We have a philosophical difference on how the system should work, and that's Ok. I believe Democracy to mean government of the people (from the population being represented), by the people (elected officials), and for the people (what is in thier best interests current and well into the future, not that everyone will agree with each decision an elected rep makes.)

Edwin Ison

You could use that same argument to say the current board might not be a true representation of the community and their agenda.


Bingo. You win the prize.

True Blue

The Perkins elite showed all of us where their priorities were with the multi million dollar football/track field. They were so sure the voters would vote for their new "Campus." It's never been about education, until Gunner threaten to lay off teachers. Now the parents have been threaten they will have to pay more for their kids sports, so Gunner has made it about SPORTS. That's to get those parents out to vote, so he can build his "Campus." Definition of financial stability should mean: Firming and securing your finances. Staying within your means. Saving for rainy days when
funds are cut by the state. This elite crowd won't stop until they get these levies passed. They will build the campus and they'll come back every year for more money.


True Blue,

The necessary stadium and track repairs were going to cost an estimated $1.1M. The district ended up spending $1.7M on an entirely new, modern stadium and track facility, that was matched by donations of $1.7M secured by the Athletic Boosters. So the district chose to spend $1.7M on a $3.4M dollar project, instead of spending $1.1M on a $1.1M project. A pretty good long-term financial decision in my book.

Your comments about Dr. Gunner, motives, education and sports are all opinion. Ones I disagree with. Education is about more than what happens in the classroom.

My wife and I earn less than $100,000 combined. We live in a home valued under $150,000. We are not a part of this "elite" crowd that you speak of. And we do not begrudge those who are more fortunate than us.


To repair and upgrade the stadium would have been $1.1 million. Why not use $1.1 in donations to upgrade/repair, saving donators $600,000 and the taxpayers $1.7 (stolen from the operating funds) instead of building new, especially when on the verge of "dismantling" the district? Because Gunner and the BOE have prime rib tastes and don't understand we're on a McDonalds budget. This is a perfect example of why they are not to be trusted. Please vote no.


I don't know all the facts on the stadium, but I believe the donations were only there if the district was willing to match dollars. Don't quote me on that, but I'll try to find out.



Here are my questions, AGAIN.

1. Define "financial stability"

2. How is Perkins projecting a $1 million+ INCREASE in revenue for this fiscal year, yet Gunner is stating multiple times he will have to "dismantle the district" and that the Perkins community "will no longer have a school district" if this levy does not pass?

3. Why did Gunner take out a $3,000,000 loan to design and plan new facilities if taxpayers voted it down multiple times overwhelmingly, Perkins is on the brink of financial ruin and the buildings are "on hold"?

PLEASE, PLEASE answer theres.

1. If you cannot define financial stability, please refrain from using the idea that the buildings are on hold until the district realizes financial stability. How can you argue something, VoteInformed, that you have no idea what it is?

2. Contrary to your first response, there is an increase in revenue for FY13. Please look at the 5 year Forecast on the Treasurer's website. Revenue jumps to $22.9M in FY13 (revenue was $21.7M in FY 2012) and then averages out to appx $21.2M over FY14-17.

Again, how is this revenue forecasting causing Gunner to publicly state he will be forced to "dismantle the district" or Perkins community "will no longer have their district" when revenue is essentially stabilized for the next 5 years. Further, you stated "we will still be in debt" if this levy does not pass. Do you not know what debt it. Please take a look at Perkins' audited financial statements. Their assets exceed their liabilites by $12.4M. That is the exact opposite of debt.

3. Your response was "Dr. Gunner took out this loan before we were put into this situation." Gunner took out this loan in April, I believe, of this year. What "put you in this situation" in the past 2 months? Yes, I recognize state funding is decreasing. Is this new information to Gunner or Board? Did they not know this back in April? Decreased state funding has been anticipated for 2+ years! So again, what SPECIFICALLY in the past 2 months has put Perkins "in the (alleged) situation they are in"? Did Gunner have that short of a vision that he did not anticipate the state cuts that others had expected for 2+years?

True Blue

Bherrle - Excuse me, I don't begrudge those who have more than me. Some who have more don't think about the ones who have less. Many in this township can't afford any more taxes.
Yes, my statements about Gunner are opinions, but I truly believe this is his agenda. Past actions have shown he can't be trusted.
You seem to be in the know about everything. Maybe you can answer Citizen's questions.


Past actions show that a new building is on his agenda.


In response to your comment: "Past actions show that a new building is on his agenda"

In my opinion a new building should be on "the" agenda But it is not his agenda. It is the agenda of the 2 - 25 person strategic planning committees, the three independent studies, the board, and Dr. Gunner. As well as anyone who supported the 2010 levy, as well as the May 2013 levy, which include but are not limited too many parents with children in the district or will have children in the district in the future.


Does anyone know how individuals came to be on the Strategic Planning Committee? If it were open to anyone who would wish to participate then that would suggest its neutrality. If the members were hand picked that would suggest something different.



All your supporters are trumped by the 65% of the voting public who defeated the levy.


True Blue,

Didn't mean to imply that you begrudge them. I'm simply stating that my family doesn't. And I do understand that there are those out there that simply can't afford it, or that it will be very difficult to afford. I would propose some sort of "waiver" from the tax increase for those individuals, keeping in mind that 1. It would be difficult to police such a waiver 2. It would shift the tax burden to those who earn above a certain income. My idea would also set a limit to the value of a home can you own and qualify for the waiver. Example (just for arguement sakes, not a firm number) someone owning a $200,000 or above home would not qualify for the waiver, no matter their income. I'm not saying this is feasible, just an idea I have.

I don't know everything, far from it. I'm simply stating facts as I get comfortable with them, and my opinion. I believe the only agenda Dr. Gunner has is serving the students, district, and taxpayers to the best of his ability, with the combination of those three groups best interests in mind.


Vote informed, Bherrle and Strong School,

You three seem to be the biggest supporter of the "Yes" vote on this and other blogs.

A day ago mrgadfly put out a proposal to help close the divide between "yes" and "no" voters. In a nutshell the proposal was for the school board to promise their would be no building started prior to the November election of school board members and no new employment contract with Mr. Gunner would be signed prior to that election.

What are your feelings on this proposal?


My personal opinion, again, in no way speaking for anyone other than myself:

My understanding is that Dr. Gunner has approx 18 months left on his current contract. I don't know when negotiations would typically start on a new contract, but I would have no problem with waiting until after the November election on a new contract for him. That one is a non-issue to me. Two assumptions being made there. He wishes to continue as Supt. after this current contract, and that the board will want him back, will offer him a new contract.

Building - it is my belief that at this point, nothing would happen until after November at this point, so again, really a non-issue, I wouldn't have a problem with that at this point.

However - I will state clearly my opinion, and my agreement with the BOE, Dr. Gunner, the two 25 member strategic planning committees, and the three independent studies that were done. Either new buildings are needed, or significant renovation is needed. Signifcant renovation would cost upwards if not more than 3/4 of the cost of the proposed new facilities, therefore, my opinion is new buildings are needed. The tour of the facilities I took this morning strengthened that belief.



I appreciate your opinion. The school board and Mr. Gunner have been ask about waiting until after the election before proceeding building. Both have ignored answering those questions.

I believe you can get this levy passed without any problem if the board would agree to not build until after the election and not offer the superintendent a new or renewed contract until after the election.

Just my opinion.


Good point, Bherrle and I'm glad that you toured the facilities. Always look rough at the end of the school year. Maintenance/custodial do a great job throughout the summer. Please remember, though that in addition to passing this levy to build the schools, continual operations levies will be needed to be passed in addition to this 10 year building levy to support said structure. I've witnessed communities build new school campuses and now they can't get the additional support to fund the daily operations. Again, it brings us full circle that this is a state funding issue.

Also, keep in mind that KBI stands a really good chance of closing in early 2015. If that happens, we're all in trouble!



One of the things that I want to dig into and haven't had time yet is the specifics of the new 7-12 building plans. I can't say I totally agree with the specific plan because I haven't seen it yet. I hope to get into that in the coming week. One thing that I would like to see, would expect to see, would be a building that takes less $ to maintain, and less to operate in utitlites, etc, than Briar and the HS currently do combined. Certainly, I'm of the opinion that it should be no higher, but I would expect a decrease, but again, my opinion is not an expert one. I'd like to see the projections on annual costs vs. current and I'll request that.

On KBI, I agree with you. I have a friend whose family we attend church with who works for KBI. He is the primary income earner in the family. He and I have talked about that issue.


The financial and facility issues facing the district won't change. It doesn't matter even if all the anti-levy commenters or pro-levy supporters were elected to the board. The district has revenue and facility issues. New board members, same problems. New superintendent, same problems. Cherry picking numbers without looking at the entire context in order to confuse people-the problems are still with us. There are only several options available for consideration:

(1) do nothing and the price tag for operations and facilities continues to rise and facility repairs or construction will get more costly to deal with (2010/4.98 mills . . . May 2013/ 5.5 mills . . . August/6.73 mills. . . ?).

(2) move the inside millage back, pass an operating levy, pass traditional bond levy for repairs or replacement of one building; this will require at least two separate levies to pass and will put a higher tax burden on the residents. After the bond levy for one building expires in 30 years, ask for another one to take care of Meadowlawn which will be approaching 80+ years, then ask for another bond levy after that to take care of Furry which will be 110+ years, and after that pass another bond levy to deal with Briar . . .

(3) do nothing and hope the state comes to the rescue. . . no further comment needed

(4) Move the inside millage back, pass an operating levy, and then try to figure out what to do about the facilities

(5) Develop a comprehensive plan to deal with facilities and educational needs of students and residents going forward that will not require passing additional bond levies and which puts a limited term levy (ten years) on the ballot, and which is at the lowest cost to the taxpayer going forward

After reviewing all options presented over the past few years would indicate that option 5 is the best plan: that would be what we are voting for in August.


The union is selling out the teachers.



Your #5 would also mean that the taxpaying public would lose the right to have a check and balance on whoever is on the school board in regards to buildings. Am I correct in my assessment?


Just got back. Will respond a bit later because I do have some thoughts on your query. I find it somewhat ironic that we debate about "inside" millage (also, known as "unvoted" millage) that is guaranteed to districts by state law (hence the name "inside" millage as in "inside the law").


If Gunner would resign and the board would draw up a contract stating no new buildings will be built, any levy you throw out there would pass.



Mr. Gunner doesn't have to resign. The board just can't hamstring the community with an extended contract prior to the vote for a possible new school board.

Please note, I said possible. If the community decides this board is sufficient with a positive vote for them, well that's the ball game for us who believe a change would be helpful.

I just want the taxpaying public to have the final approval on this building and the direction of the school. If the present board is reelected than in my eyes the community has decided the millage switch was a proper decision.


donutshopguy 2013!!! Does anyone know who in the community is considering running this fall?

Strong Schools ...

I have heard of two people that are very interested in putting their names on the ballot.

Strong Schools ...

I have heard of two people that are very interested in putting their names on the ballot.


The only thing I have heard, and it is pure speculation, is that the teacher who was let go a few years back for sleeping in the classroom was at the election board office sometime in the last few weeks. No info on what the visit was for.


If interested in that case, look up "Smith v Perkins". If you follow the progress in public records you will learn that her case went to federal court. Part of the districts claim was upheld, but the part that dealt with ADEA was reversed and remanded. Look up EEOC guidelines for employers who have employees with diabetes as a disability. I wonder how much it has cost us for the district to come up with pretext to fire her.

My mother had diabetes. When she seemed to be sleeping or groggy it was really a signal that her blood sugar was off. Everyone knew it. We signaled her by telling her to check her blood sugar. It really only seemed to happen when she was ill or stressed out.