Voters to decide fate of bond, sinking fund

Tuesday, Nov. 7 is right around the corner and Oxford school district voters will face two very important proposals when they head to the polls between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Voters are being asked to approve a $28.28 million bond and a five-year, 0.75-mill sinking fund, both of which would be used to fund a variety of capital improvement projects throughout the district.

Should the proposals be approved, officials are looking to invest a total of $30.4 million into transportation, building systems, site improvements, roofing, technology infrastructure, security cameras/access and playgrounds throughout the district.

If the bond and sinking fund proposals pass in unison, district officials are hoping to spend at least $1.5 million on bus replacements, up to $500,000 on playground updates, $150,000 on security camera/building access improvements, $1.45 million on technology-related improvements, $3.35 million on roofing replacements, $8.2 million on parking lot and sidewalk replacement, and $12.6 million on building system replacements.

The cost of architectural, construction management and contingency fees are not included in these numbers.

If any funds remain after the proposed projects are completed, officials say those dollars would be put towards additional buses for the district.

Each of these “needed” improvement projects which have been identified, according to Superintendent Tim Throne, would aim only to protect and improve the quality of the district’s existing infrastructure and previous investments– not to create anything new.

“The money that we’re asking for is to do major renovations to existing facilities and buildings. The only thing that I would say is new is… if the sinking fund passes, we’re looking at building a new parking lot up at Leonard Elementary. Other than that, we’re not looking to ‘expand our footprint’ or anything like that. We’re trying to protect our existing investments, buildings, facilities and transportation fleet,” said Throne.

The bond and sinking fund proposals were first suggested following several years of extensive research, according to Throne.

“These proposals didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been asking, listening and doing our homework for a couple of years just to get to this point,” said Throne. “We’ve surveyed our parents, our students, and community members for the last couple of years on an annual basis. We’ve asked them what they believe our greatest need is. We’ve had community meetings, we’ve investigated our facilities… We’ve taken an honest evaluation of where our buildings and facilities are at currently and where the biggest issues lie. The bond and sinking fund proposals are a way to try and address the most crucial (needs).”

One point that Throne told this reporter he would like to drive home is that the bond and sinking fund proposals are not the same kinds of requests as the district’s non-homestead operating millage which was approved by voters last November.

At that time, voters were asked to renew the district’s 10-year, 17.8078-mill operating tax levy, which represents 10 percent of its general fund budget. They were also asked to renew a 10-year request to increase that same operating tax in order to raise it back to the maximum 18 mills the state assumes school districts are levying on non-homestead property. A tax levy, such as the non-homestead millage, generates money to pay a district’s operating costs, such as salaries, equipment, and utilities.

Comparatively, bond and sinking fund proceeds cannot be used towards operating costs and may only be used to fund major repairs and renovations to school buildings.

“I want people to know this isn’t the same as the non-homestead millage which was on the ballot a year ago. That was for operating funds. The bond and sinking fund proposals have nothing to go with that. The district has not passed a bond since 2009. What came before the voters a year ago was our non-homestead operating millage and I want people to know that there is a difference. While both impact funding of Oxford Community Schools, they are two totally different financial vehicles and they, by law, provide funding in two totally different ways,” said Throne.

The proposed bond would keep the district’s current debt service tax rate steady at 7.9 mills although it would extend the length of repayment for the district’s bond debt, currently set to end in 2037, by three years.

If approved, the five-year, 0.75-mill sinking fund would generate approximately $800,000 annually. The proceeds would be added to the bond to cover the total $30.4 million in existing needs. A sinking fund millage is different from a bond issue in that the bond issue is a lump-sum amount the district borrows and pays back. The sinking fund millage is a limited property tax, using more of a pay-as-you-go method to fund building remodeling projects as they are completed.

For a homeowner whose property has a taxable value of $100,000, that 0.75 mills equals an additional $75 annually for five years.

“I want people to know the difference of what’s on the ballot. The bond will not increase their taxes. It does extend the school district’s payment for three years, but it does not increase their taxes. The sinking fund does (increase their taxes). It’s (an additional) three-quarters of a mill each year for five years. I want them to know that,” Throne added.

Despite this being an off-year election, Throne is urging Oxford district voters to go to the polls and make their voices heard.

“I hope that, because this isn’t a presidential election, people will still exercise their responsibility to vote and that they don’t take for granted their ability to do so. Whether they agree with the proposal or disagree, I hope that voters come and express their opinion via their vote and that they remain engaged,” said Throne.

For more information on the district’s bond and sinking fund proposals, visit www.oxfordschools.org/district/2017_bond_and_sinking_fund_proposal_information.

Throne welcomes community members to contact him with questions, either by phone at (248) 969-5000 or by email at tim.throne@oxfordschools.org.

 

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