Would not raise property taxes, officials say
By Erin Albanese
School News Network
In eyeing the needs of the district and planning for the next 30 years, administrators are considering a November bond request that would not raise property taxes.
But first, they are seeking input from parents, teachers, students and community members concerning what facility improvements they would support –– and which ones they want most.
Parents and staff members were emailed links to fill out by the end of January, and a postcard with information about the online survey is being mailed to residents. The board could vote to approve ballot language in late spring.
Voters will be presented with a millage proposal that won’t result in an increase in taxes because existing debt will be expiring. The new millage request will be for the same number of mills or fewer than the mills saved from the expiring debt. A new levy would generate some dollars in 2018, with the balance to come in 2022, to fund upgrades and improvements at its aging facilities.
Because voters rejected two attempts to pass major bond requests in August and November 2013, the district is taking a long-term approach to the plan. If voters approved a request in November, the sale of bonds in spring 2018 would generate about $20 million. When existing debt expires in 2021 and 2022, the district could sell the remainder of the bonds to generate approximately another $45 million, said Matt Lewis, assistant superintendent of finance and administrative services.
The multi-series arrangement allows flexibility, Lewis said. “We can control the amount of the sale so we don’t raise taxes.”
That’s key, said Superintendent Tom Reeder, because “We said we would not return to the public if it would cost them any more in taxes.”
Reeder noted that a favorable market has made it possible to move ahead with a new request. “We said, ‘If the money is available without raising taxes next year, could we start the projects that much earlier?’ ”
The majority of bond funds generated in 2018 would most likely be invested at Wyoming High School, at 1350 Prairie Parkway. “It is the building with the most needs,” Reeder said. “We want the high school to be the flagship of the community.”
Some district needs have changed since the 2013 bond requests failed. The district moved forward with securing school entrances. A 10-year sinking fund levy passed in May — also with no tax increase — generates about $400,000 a year for maintenance such as roof and parking lot repairs.
The survey questions gauge community opinions on immediate and future needs in the district, which enrolls about 4,300 students. It asks for input concerning the following:
- enhancing landscaping and elementary playgrounds
- improving curb appeal of buildings
- upgrades to the fine arts center located at the junior high
- adding a new fine arts center on the high school campus
- upgrades to outdoor athletic facilities
- adding artificial turf at the high school stadium
- upgrading indoor athletic facilities
- updating labs to support science, engineering, technology and math
- dedicated music and art space at the elementary schools
- improvements to parking and traffic flow at schools
- adding windows to allow for more natural light
- grade configuration at schools
In moving forward, the district will form a planning committee involving parents, staff and community members. Community forums will be scheduled.
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