Huron Superintendent Rowe answers your Bond Proposal Questions

Thanks to our readers for all the questions you submitted regarding the Bond Proposal. We decided to ask an expert, and who better than the Superintendent of Huron Schools, Mr. Donovan Rowe. Thanks to Superintendent Rowe and his team at the Huron School District for taking time to answer your questions. Here are the written responses:

Should the proposed bond issue fail, when will our existing bond obligations be retired?

This bond issue will replace a debt that we are paying off and is scheduled to end very soon.  That is one of the debt pieces that make up our 7 mill allocation.  This bond issue will replace that.  If this bond issue proposal fails, we will still have 5.66 mills of debt that we will continue to pay on.  Our last two bond issues were passed in 2001 and 2011.  If the bond issue passes, we will continue to pay 7 mills, as we are currently paying.  We will be able to generate approximately $49 million dollars through this process.

If the State of Michigan per pupil contribution is only used for direct educational expense, how does the school district pay for regularly scheduled maintenance, unintended but necessary facility expense and transportation services?

School districts are funded on a per pupil allocation basis, called an FTE.  Being a non-profit organization, all of our funds are designated for instructional purposes.  This includes the upkeep of our infrastructure, facilities, and maintenance of facilities and grounds.  In most cases, preventative maintenance and general maintenance are funded through our FTE and taken from our general fund.  Facility upgrades, repairs, etc. . . . are funded through earmarked funds taken from our capital improvement fund.  This fund is also funded using our FTE allocations.  Fiscally responsible districts, such as ours, make annual contributions to our capital improvement fund in order to ensure general upkeep of facilities and grounds.  

Does the school district now, or have they in the past, utilized a “sinking fund” type approach to budget for anticipated future repair and replacement of facility needs?

To my knowledge, we have not had a sinking fund since I have been with the school district (over 20 years).  

How many “school of choice ” students does the district have in a typical year and how do those families help pay for our school debt if they are residing outside of the Huron School District taxing authority? If our schools are overcrowded why would we accept “school of choice” students?

The Huron School District has a limited school of choice participation.  School of choice applicants must meet the established criteria and apply within our school of choice window.  Each year, we publish a limited number of school of choice openings based on our student count.  School of choice students help school districts to provide courses and programs that may not exist without their presence.  In our case, school of choice participation has helped us expand our AP offerings and Accelerated Course opportunities.  

How long until we break even on the upgrades to the lighting system? Was there an engineering assessment done?

During the exploratory process for the bond issue proposal, the Huron School District worked with an architecture firm and a construction manager.  These organizations provided engineers who examined our facilities, grounds, and infrastructure.  In addition, the Huron School District had an outside firm examine our technology infrastructure and another firm do a student growth population study.  The findings from all of these assessments were used during the exploratory stage in order to determine the need for a bond issue proposal.  

The Huron School District has vacillated for a number of years on having a “young fives ” program. Is this a permanent decision?

As part of our prioritization process, a citizen bond committee met over the course of five months in order to establish the needs list for upgrades and programs.  Part of the needs that were identified was to establish a “young 5” program and to build a new early childhood/kindergarten center.  This facility will house our new young 5 program and kindergarten programs.  In addition, we will continue to provide space for the GSRP, Latchkey, and preschool programs.  

What has precipitated the need for private shower areas at the high school? Will there be separate areas for both male and female students? Will all shower facilities now be private? Will there be corresponding changes at Renton?

Whenever a school district considers upgrades to restrooms and facilities, options are examined in order to be sure that we are compliant with ADA standards and current student needs.  We will be working with our architects and construction manager in order to design shower and toilet facilities that will best suit the needs of our students and staff.  These design options will be examined as part of the process if and when the bond issue passes.  

Why are we not using fundraising options to help cover costs?

Fundraising options are insufficient to fund major facility upgrades, new construction, or infrastructure upgrades.  Simply put, we can’t sell enough cookies to raise funds for a roof that costs $1.2 million dollars, and that is only one item in one building.  The biggest obstacle in this case is that we lose the ability to bundle work and labor in order to save money on multiple jobs through the bid process.  

Does the Huron School District receive money for the students that attend St. Stephen’s and St. John’s? If so, how much?

The Huron School District only receives funds for St. John and St. Stephens students if we provide them with ancillary services.  We do provide music, computers, library, and art courses, and we are reimbursed by the state for these services.  The amount is based on the amount of students served.  

Should the bond issue pass, when can we anticipate that the 7 mill assessment will end?  Should the bond issue fail, what would happen next?

This bond issue proposal will be paid over 30 years.  If the bond issue does not pass, we will review our priority needs list and evaluate our community concerns.  There will still be extensive needs in our buildings, facilities, grounds, and infrastructure.  So, we will begin planning for our next course of action.  

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