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Voters to decide $185 million RCS infrastructure, technology bond

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 14, 2015

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ROCHESTER — This November, Rochester Community Schools district voters will be asked to consider a $185 million bond issue to upgrade and renovate school facilities, technology and infrastructure.

The primary purpose of the election, according to district officials, is to enhance student safety and security, and to ensure that schools, school facilities, equipment and technology are updated and in good repair.

The five-year proposal, which RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner said would allow the district to continue implementing its long-range strategic plan, will go before voters Nov. 3. If approved, new bonds would replace expiring ones, and district administrators said there would be no change in the current tax rate. The average resident would pay about $262 in the first year if the bond passes.

According to the ballot language:

“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).”

The district’s last bond issue was in 2004.

Last year, an assessment by district consultants, along with the Technology and Infrastructure 2020 Committee, found that RCS needs $236 million to make all of the necessary upgrades to its technology and facility infrastructure — including $99 million in critical need items that consultants said need to be addressed immediately, $34 million in 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.

The TI2020 Committee, along with the Board of Education, streamlined the report to address the most critical needs over the next five years, which total $185 million, officials said.

Shaner said the district’s critical needs are costly, but he said they are necessary and expected, given the age of the district’s 22 schools.

“We need to deal with the reality of our aging buildings and infrastructure,” he said.

The bond proposal would address seven main priorities: 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; establishing permanent spaces for pre-kindergarten, adult and special education; improving playgrounds, school sites, athletic facilities and fine arts facilities; and replacing school buses nearing the end of their life.

“There’s not a lot of bells and whistles here, but they are all critical needs,” Shaner said.

If the bond passes, RCS Director of Community Relations Lori Grein said, improvements will be made at every school building in the district.

“The bond proposal will affect every student at every grade level in every Rochester school,” she said. 

Grein also explained that the bond revenue must be used for the purposes specified in the bond proposal and, by law, cannot be used to pay employee salaries or benefits.

If voters reject the bond, Shaner said, the proposed projects will be canceled, since there is no alternate funding source.

For more information about the bond proposal, visit www.rochester.k12.mi.us and click the TI2020 Voter Information button.

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