RCS seeking $185 million bond issue

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 3, 2015

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ROCHESTER — The Rochester Community Schools district will ask voters to approve a $185 million bond issue to pay for upgrading and renovating school facilities, technology and infrastructure.

The district’s school board unanimously approved the bond proposal during a special meeting May 18. The Board of Education would have to submit a possible bond issue by Aug. 11 for inclusion on the fall ballot.

The five-year proposal, which RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner said would allow the district to continue implementing its long-range plan, will go before voters in November. If approved, he said there will be no change in the current tax rate. The district’s last bond issue was in 2004.

“The decision to move forward with preparing a bond proposition is just the beginning of the overall process,” Shaner said in a district statement. “We are committed to continually enhancing the quality of education while being good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

Last December, the district assembled TI2020 — a community stakeholder group comprised of community members, administrators, parents and consultants — to evaluate the state of the district’s technology and facility infrastructure and provide a capital planning assessment that would address critical and deferred needs and property enhancements.

An assessment by district consultants found that RCS needs $236 million to make all the necessary upgrades — including $99 million of critical need items that consultants said need to be addressed immediately, $34 million of deferred need items that they said need to be addressed within the next five years, and $103 million in other needs that they said are not critical but are necessary and should be addressed after five years to solve challenges that the district currently faces.

As technologies change, RCS Community Relations Director Lori Grein said the district is working to find solutions to meet its students’ and staff’s learning and teaching needs. The district currently supports 6,500 desktop and laptop computers, 32 miles of fiber to connect the 25 buildings and schools, over 800 phones, 4,700 student email accounts, 2,000 staff email accounts and more.

District officials said the bond issue would address all the critical and deferred needs items, as well as a combination of other needs identified, including site work, building renovations and updates to security, buses, and equipment and technology.

Board of Education President Jennifer Berwick said the school board believes the bond proposal would assure that students continue to receive a quality education in facilities that are safe, secure and up-to-date.

“The committee worked for several months and toured the district and really studied what the needs were for the district. There’s a lot of critical needs — from a structural standpoint, to our buildings as well as safety, but the biggest part is the technology that needs to be enhanced. Those items will be what this bond supports,” Berwick said. “Every building will be affected with improvements.”

By addressing a host of critical and deferred needs, she said the district would take good care of the community’s investment in its schools and better position its students for the future.

“This bond not only supports the strategic plan initiative, it preserves the infrastructure — as well as the structural buildings that the community has already invested in,” she said.

Shaner said the district will use its school messenger program and host a number of community informational meetings to make sure residents understand the bond proposal and how it will benefit the schools and the Rochester community if approved.

For more information on the bond proposal or to see the full TI2020 report, visit www.rochester.k12.mi.us.

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