Rochester Community Schools Bond Proposal on the Ballot Nov. 3 (video)
(Compiled, Oct. 27, 2015)
Voters in the Rochester Community School District will have a school bond proposal on the Nov. 3, 2015 ballot. The District has made a video and provided Q & A to educate voters about the bond and what the money currently coming in is used for.
Here is the ballot language:
ROCHESTER COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
Shall Rochester Community School District, Oakland and Macomb Counties, Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed One Hundred Eighty-Five Million Dollars ($185,000,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds therefor, in one or more series, for the purpose of:
erecting, furnishing and equipping additions to and partially remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, equipping and re-equipping school facilities; acquiring, installing and equipping instructional technology for school facilities; constructing, equipping, developing and improving athletic and physical education facilities, playfields and playgrounds; purchasing school buses; and developing and improving sites?
The following is for informational purposes only:
The estimated millage that will be levied for the proposed bonds in 2016 is 1.82 mills ($1.82 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a zero (-0-) mill net increase in debt millage. The maximum number of years the bonds of any series may be outstanding, exclusive of any refunding, is twenty-one (21) years. The estimated simple average annual millage anticipated to be required to retire this bond debt is 2.30 mills ($2.30 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation).(Pursuant to State law, expenditure of bond proceeds must be audited, and the proceeds cannot be used for repair or maintenance costs, teacher, administrator or employee salaries, or other operating expenses.)
And here is the Q & A:
When is the election?
Tuesday, November 3, 2015. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
What is on the ballot?
Voters residing within the boundaries of the Rochester Community School District (RCS) will vote to extend the current tax rate to fund updates, renovation, and construction in seven general areas:
- Improving student safety and school security
- Addressing critical needs in roofs and in electrical and mechanical areas
- Upgrading technology and technology infrastructure
- Improving classroom and school interiors and refreshing classroom furniture
- Establishing permanent spaces for pre-Kindergarten, adult and special education
- Improving playgrounds, school sites, athletic facilities, and fine arts facilities
- Replacing school buses as they reach the end of their useful life.
If voters approve the bond proposal on November 3, there will be no change in the current tax rate.
Why is this election necessary?
The primary purpose of the election is to enhance student safety and security, and to assure that schools, school facilities, equipment and technology are updated and in good repair. The bond proposal on the November ballot is an outgrowth of the school district’s strategic plan. The strategic plan called for a review of RCS’s infrastructure, including facilities, technology, student safety, and school security. To conduct this review the school district formed a Technology and Infrastructure 2020 Committee composed of more than 50 citizens and school district staff. The Committee worked with an architectural firm, a program management firm, and a technology firm to develop the report for the Board of Education. The Committee presented their report to the Board of Education and urged the Board to move forward “with urgency.” The Board reviewed the report and streamlined it to address the most important (urgent) needs over the next five years. In May the Board of Education approved a resolution to place a bond proposal on the November 3 ballot.
How will the bond proposal benefit students and the community?
The bond proposal will benefit students by providing safe and secure entrances at all schools. It will also provide technology upgrades, and enhance school facilities and sites.
The bond proposal will support continuation of the school district’s long-range facilities plan, assuring that the learning environment is up-to-date and the schools and school facilities are upgraded, renovated, and kept in good repair.
All bond proposal projects are designed to maintain the community’s investment in its school district and to reflect positively on homeowner property values.
What will the bond proposal cost?
If voters approve the bond proposal request, there will be no increase in the current tax rate. The current tax rate will be extended for five years. After five years, the tax rate is projected to decrease as we pay off the debt.
What will happen if voters do not approve the bond proposal?
The bond projects cannot be completed as planned.
Will all bond proposal revenue stay in the Rochester Community School District?
Yes. All revenue from the bond proposal will stay in the Rochester Community School District. None of the revenue will go to Lansing or to any other school district.
If the bond proposal is approved by voters, will property values be affected?
Real estate values tend to be higher in communities with school districts that offer a quality education program and have up-to-date school facilities. Property values tend to be lower in communities that do not offer an adequate curriculum or that have schools that are out of date and poorly maintained.
Why are buses included in the bond proposal?
Identifying the replacement of worn out buses in the bond proposal relieves pressure on the general fund operating budget and assures that Rochester’s bus fleet will be systematically upgraded as buses reach the end of their useful life.
School buses are typically considered worn out then they are 10-12 years old or have odometer readings of 175,000 or more miles. Rochester has 117 school buses. They range in age from one to 13 years, averaging seven years of age. About one-half the school bus fleet should be replaced in the next three years. Rochester buses travel over one million miles a year transporting an average of 7,500 students per day to school and school-related activities.
What technology is included in the bond proposal?
All technology- upgrades included in the bond proposal are designed to support classroom instruction and enhance the learning environment. A primary focus is to establish and implement a process that assures standard technology is available in every classroom. School district technology upgrades in the bond proposal include:
- Classroom printers, scanners, plotters, and language labs
- Desktop, laptop, and mobile device upgrades
- District information systems
- Higher level technology courses
- Upgrades to secure network devices to increase reliability
- Installing technologies to improve student safety and security
- Provide equitable access to technology
Can any of the bond proposal funds be used for employee salaries or operating expenses?
No. Bond proposal funds cannot be used for employee salaries. They also cannot be used for repair or maintenance costs or other operating expenses. Bond proposal funds must be used only for purposes specified in the ballot language, and, as required by State law, they must be audited.
What is the difference between a bond and a sinking fund?
A bond is a State-approved funding process that specifies a set scope of projects. When voters approve a bond, the money specified in the bond proposal is borrowed and the school district makes payments over a period of years, much like a homeowner pays a mortgage. Bonds are usually issued for 20-30 years.
Bonds can be used for:
- Constructing new school buildings
- Constructing additions to existing school buildings
- Remodeling existing school buildings
- Energy conservation improvements
- Land purchases
- Site development and improvements
- Athletic and physical education facility development and improvements
- Playground development and improvements
- Refunding debt (if new present value savings can be demonstrated)
- Direct bond program costs such as professional fees, election fees, issuance costs, qualification fees, insurance fees, final audit costs
- School bus purchases
- Loose furnishings and equipment purchasing
- Technology purchases limited to hardware and communication devices that transmit, receive or compute information for pupil instructional purposes only. The initial purchase of operating system and customized application software is allowed if purchased with the initial hardware.
Bonds cannot be used for:
- Repairs, maintenance, or maintenance agreements
- Supplies, salaries, service contracts, lease payments, installment purchase contracts Automobiles, trucks, or vans
- Portable classrooms purchased for temporary use
- Upgrades to an existing computer operating system or application software
- Computer training, computer consulting, or computer maintenance contracts.
A sinking fund is a financing initiative that gives a school district flexibility in meeting its individual needs. The project list is not specified in detail and a school district can add and subtract projects as needs arise or go away. Unlike a bond, sinking funds can be used for repairs and maintenance. They cannot be used for technology or transportation related matters. Sinking funds are usually approved for a 5-10 year period. Both bonds and sinking funds are audited separately from the general budget to account for every dollar spent.
How are Michigan’s schools funded?
The bulk of the funding to operate Michigan’s schools comes from a foundation allowance paid by the State of Michigan. The State collects 6.0 mills from every homeowner in Michigan. For businesses and people with second homes, the State collects an additional 18.0 mills. This revenue is then divided among public schools in Michigan. The amount returned to each public school is called their foundation allowance.
Does the foundation allowance follow the student?
Yes. If student enrollment increases, the State’s foundation allowance payment is increased by the amount of the enrollment increase. Similarly, if enrollment declines, the State’s foundation allowance payment is decreased by the amount of the enrollment decrease. This is also true for Schools of Choice students. If a student living in ABC School District enrolls in another public school district, that school district receives the foundation allowance payment that would have gone to ABC School District. Similarly, if a student from outside ABC School District enrolls in the ABC School District, ABC School District receives the foundation allowance that would have gone to the school district outside ABC School District.
Who can vote in this bond proposal election?
Anyone can vote who resides in the Rochester Community School District, will be 18 years of age or older on Election Day, and is registered to vote by October 5, 2015.
Where can I register to vote?
You can register to vote at any Secretary of State office or at the Clerk’s Office where you reside. You can download a voter registration application at www.michigan.gov/documents.
Do I need to update my voter registration?
You need to update your voter registration if you have changed your name or address since the last time you voted. You can do this at any Secretary of State or at the Clerk’s Office where you reside.
Where do I vote?
You will vote at your regular school district precinct. If you are unsure of your precinct, call the Rochester Community School District at 248-726-3000.
Can I vote by absentee ballot?
Registered voters can vote by absentee ballot if they meet one of the following requirements: 1. They expect to be out of town on Election Day; 2. They are 60 years of age or older; 3. They are unable to vote without assistance at the polls; or, 4. They cannot attend the polls due to religious reasons.
Absentee ballots will be available to voters after September 19.
After September 19, voters can complete their absentee ballot application and vote in one stop at their Clerk’s Office. The whole process takes less than five minutes.
The Clerk will mail absentee ballot applications to residents on the permanent absentee voter list before or shortly after September 19.
How did the district come up with the ballot language?
The ballot language consists of legal terminology that is driven by state law. Three different state laws govern the drafting of ballot language:
- Michigan Election Law authorizes the Secretary of State to regulate specific formatting of the ballot language.
- The General Property Tax Act requires local governments (including school districts) to include estimated millage information and number of years for the bond issue on the ballot and directs how that information can be expressed.
- The Revised School Code outlines the format and specific, descriptive terms for allowable bond projects.
Why doesn’t the bond language include the specific needs addressed for each school?
The district’s professional team, financial advisors and school administrators ensured the language was comprehensive to cover every aspect of the proposed project. Because the RCS bond project is district-wide, covering every school and school facility, it was important to keep the project description in the ballot language broad, comprehensive and general in nature, while complying with Michigan state law.
Why does the bond language include the word “athletics” but not “fine arts”?
The bond language was written to comply with Michigan state law. Athletic facilities are separated, listed in Section 1351a of the Revised School Code and therefore, are mentioned separately in a ballot. Fine arts and other school projects fall under the broad, general description of constructing, remodeling and/or additions to school facilities.
How does the bond language define technology?
For ballot language purposes, the Revised School Code defines technology to mean, among other things, “Hardware and communication devices that transmit, receive or compute information for pupil instructional purposes.” Technology and technology-related items, such as copying machines and telephone systems, are not directly used for pupil instruction and are included under the umbrella of remodeling, equipment, and furnishings.
Can you explain the millage as written in the bond proposal?
Under the General Property Tax Act, we are required to put the first year of the estimated debt millage for the new bonds on the ballot for informational purposes. However, because existing debt millage is decreasing as a result of the refinancing of current debt and current bond payments are declining, the millage increase for the new bond nets out to be zero.
How does the new bond millage interact with the existing bond millage?
In the simplest of terms, we are essentially replacing one old debt that is decreasing, for a new debt, and gaining $185 million to be used to enhance every school and school facility.
If I vote no, how much money will I save on my taxes?
If the bond proposal is not approved, the average Rochester taxpayer (living in a $250,000 home) will pay 72 cents less per day.
Remember, you can get more information about the election by going to www.rochester.k12.mi.us and clicking on School Election Information, by calling any school principal or Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaner at 248/726-3000. Or, by sending an email to Superintendent Shaner at firstname.lastname@example.org
More info: https://www.rochester.k12.mi.us/pages/124243/school-election-information