WCS to hold bond issue election

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 17, 2016

 The Warren Consolidated Schools Board of Education is asking voters to approve a $134.5 million bond proposal May 3. District Superintendent Robert Livernois, pictured, said the bonds are sold in the capital markets at a date determined by the district, a financial advisor and an underwriter.

The Warren Consolidated Schools Board of Education is asking voters to approve a $134.5 million bond proposal May 3. District Superintendent Robert Livernois, pictured, said the bonds are sold in the capital markets at a date determined by the district, a financial advisor and an underwriter.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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WARREN — This May, residents in the Warren Consolidated Schools district will decide whether or not they want to support a bond initiative that, if passed, would fund a number of updates districtwide.

At the Feb. 3 Board of Education meeting, the school board voted unanimously to place a $134.5 million bond issue on the May 3 election ballot.

If passed by the district’s residents, the bond proposal would generate taxpayer dollars that would fund a number of improvements, including technology updates, and building and security enhancements. 

The bond issue is focused on improving educational opportunities and would create modern learning environments designed to benefit all students. According to school officials, the proposal is expected to cost most homeowners in the district $1 per week.

“With interest rates remaining at a historic low, we are asking residents to invest $1 per week to allow Warren Consolidated Schools to continue to create dynamic futures for all students,” board President Susan Trombley said in a prepared statement. “Under state law, bond proceeds may only be used for capital improvements, and may not be used to pay administrator, teacher or staff salaries, routine maintenance costs or other school district operating expenses.”

When contacted via email, WCS Superintendent Robert Livernois said that by using taxable value data provided to district officials, it was determined that the average taxable value of residential property is approximately $55,000. He added that the average $55,000 at an increase of 0.95 mills for the bond issue is $52.25 per year, or $1 per week. 

The total of $134.5 million would be issued in two series and each series would last 20 years. About half of the bonds would be issued in 2016 and the second half in 2019, Livernois said, should the proposal pass.  

A bond proposal is developed by the school district and presented to the voters for approval. In the case of the WCS bonds, the district has chosen to seek Michigan School Bond Qualification and Loan Program Qualification, the benefit being that the state’s credit rating is applied to the bonds, adding an additional layer of security for investors, according to Livernois. 

The bonds are sold in the capital markets at a date determined by the district, a financial advisor and an underwriter. Upon closing, funds generated from the bond sale are deposited in the district’s construction fund and are available to spend for completion of the projects contemplated in the bond proposal. The funds are limited in their use to approved projects. Funds may not be spent on school employee salaries or benefits. 

Should the bond issue pass, property taxes would be levied to provide for the annual bond payments. The first tax levy for the bonds would be issued with the summer 2016 tax collection. 

School officials have broken down the $134.5 bond proposal by category.  

If the bond proposal passes, a total of $25.3 million would be used for technology upgrades that include updating the technology infrastructure to support 21st-century learning, enhanced technology in each classroom, mobile learning devices for students, replacement of obsolete computers, and an updated and expanded wireless network.

In addition, if the bond gets approved by voters, $75.1 million would be utilized for districtwide facility and security improvements that would include secure entry vestibules, a security card reader system for doors, security cameras, roofing and flooring replacements, and upgraded fire alarm panels. 

The $75.1 million portion of the bond includes interior and exterior door replacements, improvements to heating and cooling systems, plumbing and lighting/electrical systems, energy enhancements, LED exterior light upgrades, and restroom, locker room and cafeteria renovations.

Another $21.2 million would be used for sites, fields and playground improvements that include the repaving of deteriorating parking lots and sidewalks, replacement of worn fences, and upgrades to playgrounds, athletic fields, courts and tracks.

If passed, the remaining $12.9 million would be set aside for the replacement of worn, classroom furniture, the replacement of school buses in need, and to fund band, athletic and recess equipment.

If the bond proposal passes in May, Livernois said the district would begin smaller projects in technology equipment/computers, furniture and other equipment — including sidewalks, parking lots and roofs — in the summer of 2016. According to school officials, kindergarten through 12th-grade districts need to perform capital projects in the summer months because it provides better access for workers, less disruption on the learning environment, and better safety for students and staff.  

“For the majority of the bond projects, a minimum of six months is needed for design time. Hence, a majority of the bond work would happen in phases during the following summers,” Livernois said. “With only a 12-week construction season and schools still having plenty of summer activity, we feel phasing the work over the summer months makes the most sense for our community. The particular phases have yet to be determined.”      

Neither an architect nor a construction company has been selected for the projects should the bond initiative pass.

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