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 Worn-out pieces of playground equipment at the district’s eight elementary schools, including Beechview Elementary shown here, would be replaced using funds allocated for infrastructure needs, if the bond proposal passes.

Worn-out pieces of playground equipment at the district’s eight elementary schools, including Beechview Elementary shown here, would be replaced using funds allocated for infrastructure needs, if the bond proposal passes.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Farmington Public Schools pursues $98M bond proposal

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published January 6, 2020

 If the bond is approved, 53 new buses will be purchased over the next seven years to replace older models in the district’s fleet.

If the bond is approved, 53 new buses will be purchased over the next seven years to replace older models in the district’s fleet.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington Public Schools administrators say a $98 million bond proposal is about needs, not wants, as the district looks forward to the next 10 years of operations.

The bond amount and language were unanimously approved by the Board of Education at a Nov. 19 meeting.

The proposal would carry a 0.9 debt millage rate during its first year. 

Residents are currently paying 3.3 debt mills for the previous $131.5 million bond approved in 2015. Without the passage of this new proposal, the debt millage would drop to roughly 2.3. If passed residents would pay an overall 3.2 debt millage rating for both bonds, resulting in an overall decrease from the previous year.

“There are no wants. These are needs,” said Jon Riebe, the director of facilities, operations and transportation for the district. “There is no duplication of work. It’s a continuation of the work.”

He said the previous bond was based on a 2009 facilities study, making some of the infrastructure slated for improvement now about 20 years old. The district conducted a new, 2019 facilities study to inform them moving forward.

Of the $98 million, $72.5 million would be used for infrastructure needs, like building infrastructure, parking lots, playgrounds, group instructional spaces, and athletic surfaces; $20 million would fund technology improvements, such as computers, audio-visual systems, and fiber optic cabling; and $5.5 million would fund bus replacements.

If the bond is approved, a resident with a home that has a market value of $150,000 would pay $67.50 in additional taxes annually, and a resident with a home that as a market value of $250,000 would pay $112.50 annually. The bond would be sold in two series, in 2020 and 2023, each for 20 years.

With approximately $91 million, including interest, still due on the 2015 bond issuance and $73 million, including interest, on the 2018 bond issuance, residents would begin paying for the 2020 bond proposal alongside these totals.

“Each fiscal year, the debt millage is analyzed to see what is needed to be levied — based upon the taxable values for the year — to pay the principal and interest due for that year,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Jennifer Kaminski.

Securing this bond would also allow the district to outfit all of its elementary schools with video surveillance systems, Riebe said. The 2015 bond allowed the district to make those upgrades at the middle and high schools only.

Without the approval of this new bond, Superintendent Robert Herrera said that the district’s operating finances, which would come from the general fund, would have to be reshuffled and allocated away from classroom needs, toward maintenance and mechanical needs, to keep the schools open.

The district has several boilers that need to be replaced, each of which costs roughly $100,000. That total is comparable to a teaching position in the district. 

“We rely heavily on the bond for infrastructure needs and different maintenance of facilities so that we can provide high-quality programming in the classroom and keep those general fund dollars (there),” Herrera said. “If those alternative revenues dry up, then the way we plan our budget is much different, internally. We’d be reallocating resources within programming and supports for students out toward material things.”

Currently, in the district’s general fund, 85% pays for human resources and salaries, and 15% funds various utilities that keep the district running. The district currently has 17 school buildings and 22 facilities overall, a total of 2 million square feet to maintain.

Herrera said that, if the district were solely reliant on its general fund for infrastructure needs, those funds likely wouldn’t cover everything that needs to be done.

Looking ahead 10 years, the district has analyzed that it will need $134.2 million to complete everything that needs to be replaced or improved. However, Board of Education members didn’t think that amount was something the community would support.

Herrera said the district settled on $98 million because it allows them to complete needed projects for the next six or seven years that will carry them through the 10-year span. He said it’s hard to predict what may be needed 10 years in the future, but district administrators have a “high level of confidence” that they will be dealing with items identified within the seven-year window somewhere within the next 10 years.

“The board went through a thoughtful process picking the $98 million number,” Riebe said.

They also considered a sinking fund option but determined it would not generate enough revenue to cover the costs of improvements, Herrera said. He said it also limits what the district can use the money for. They would not be able to purchase buses or to make certain technology improvements.

On the 2015 bond, which is in its final phase of construction and improvements, the district saved $6.5 million. Officials plan to use this for the district’s most critical needs if the current fails at the polls.

The 2020 bond proposal will be on the March 10 presidential primary ballot for residents to vote on.

For more information visit www.farmington.k12.mi.us.