Why are we considering a bond issue now?
After obtaining community input through the Board of Education’s planning process, a facility assessment completed in 2019, and community and staff forums in 2019, it was determined that we have facility and site needs that cannot be addressed through current funding alone. With this proposal, both schools would be impacted by district-wide renovations, security upgrades, and facility and technology improvements.
What is the amount of the proposed bond issue, and how will it affect my taxes?
This bond will generate $21 million for 3 mills,the same rate as 2019.
What does this bond proposal include?
Some highlights of this proposal include:
Secure entry improvements at high school/middle school and elementary school
New air conditioning system at the elementary school
Upgrades to LED lighting, mechanical systems and heating/ventilation, along with replacing aging roofs
Reconstructed parking lots and driveways, with the addition of over 200 new parking spaces
Performing arts improvements at the high school/middle school including tiered seating, new lighting and acoustical features
1 to 1 instructional device replacement cycle for students and staff throughout the district
New and refreshed classrooms at the elementary school, including new floors, ceilings, lighting, technology infrastructure and additional electrical outlets
An addition of two new classrooms at the elementary school to accommodate break-out space and small group instruction
An addition of four new classrooms at the high school/middle school, to be used for science, STEM and special education
How does this plan help children?
This plan will create learning environments that meet the learning styles of our students. The plan would also provide necessary technology and upgrades to security features. The classrooms would be thoughtfully designed to enhance the curriculum. The addition of air conditioning and temperature control in the elementary school would create a healthier learning environment for our students.
Have you asked for community input on this bond issue?
Yes. The district held two rounds of community forums in the spring and fall of 2019 to obtain input on our needs. Based on this input, changes were made to the plans. Community-wide input was also solicited through a community survey sent via email in the winter of 2019. Modifications were again made to the plans based on feedback and presented to the Board of Education in January 2020 for approval.
What are the main priorities that have been identified?
The priorities of this bond are to update our facilities and technologies. The bond would focus on five key areas, including Safety and Security, Arts and Athletics, Technology, Building and Site Improvements, and 21st Century Learning Spaces. Work would be done at both the elementary school and high/middle school, as well as improvements to the site. The classrooms would evolve into multi-functional learning spaces with flexible furniture. Security would be addressed in this bond by the addition of secure entries. Additionally, the bond would allow for district-wide improvements to technology infrastructure and additional equipment to support classroom technologies.
What is being done to increase the safety of students and staff?
This plan includes upgrades to the security at both the elementary school and high/middle school. At the elementary school, the office would be remodeled to create a revised secure entry. At the high/middle school, the main office woudl be reconfigured to improve security and a new secure entry would be created.
In addition, this plan would create safe separation for elementary pick-up/drop-off loop, protecting our students as they enter and exit school. A new bus road behind the high/middle school would also limit vehicle traffic and protect our students.
Why do you believe that this is an “investment” in our students and community?
Our public schools are a shared responsibility among all members of our community. Morley Stanwood Community Schools has been providing quality education for years, which is a positive factor in attracting and retaining families in the district. Homes are generally more desirable in a school district that provides quality education with a variety of innovative learning options for students.
We believe that families and citizens desire a strong public education for their children. Past generations in our community have provided for the needs of our schools throughout the decades. This is our opportunity to extend that legacy of a high-quality education at Morley Stanwood for future generations.
Where can I learn more?
What if I have some very specific questions? Where will I get these answers?
Superintendent Roger Cole is available to meet community members in person or by phone at 231-856-4392. He may also be reached by email at email@example.com.
How do I get registered to vote?
Registering to vote may be done through any Secretary of State office or with your city or township clerk. You are able to register online or by mail until July 21. After this date, registration is available in person with the local clerk.
Visit the Secretary of State’s Michigan Voter Information Center website at https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/ for more information about registering to vote and absentee ballots.
Will the tax payment be the same for the next 30 years?
No, the bond millage rate is estimated to remain at 3.00 mills through 2033, beyond that it is estimated to decline due to bond repayment and taxable value growth.
Would the approval of the bond proposal have an impact on the operating budget?
While funding from this bond proposal is independent of the support the District receives from the State of Michigan for annual operations on a per pupil basis, the bond would likely have a positive impact on the annual operating budget. It would allow the District to reallocate operating funds that are
currently being spent on aging facilities and mechanical systems, technology and buses.
Why does it cost so much to renovate and/or construct buildings?
Commercial building costs have greatly increased over the years due to rising material and labor costs. According to RS Means (Reed Construction Data), the Historical Cost Index for Commercial Construction in the Grand Rapids, Michigan region has increased the following:
2003-2018 (15yrs): Increase of 173.9%
1998-2018 (20yrs): Increase of 193.4%
18 (30yrs): Increase of 254.4%1988-20
In comparison, national averages are very similar to these figures.
Would money from the bond proposal be used to pay teachers’ salaries and benefits?
No, school districts are not allowed to use funds from a bond for operating expenses such as teacher, administrator or employee salaries, routine maintenance, or operating costs. Bond revenue must be kept separate from operating funds. Also, an independent auditing firm must audit bond revenues and expenditures once the project is completed.
How would I know the bond funds would be spent the way they are supposed to be spent?
Michigan law requires that expenditure of bond proceeds must be audited, and the proceeds cannot be used for repair or maintenance costs, teacher, administrator or employee salaries, or other operating expenses. An audit would be completed at the end of the project to ensure compliance.
Are there property tax exemptions to anyone of any kind?
If a business property has been granted an Industrial Facilities Tax ("IFT") credit then only half of the taxable value is subject to the bond millage. IFT's are granted as a way to promote economic development. The business owner would need to verify if some of the taxable value has an IFT credit.
One item that a community member could also research is the Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit. The Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit is a method through which some taxpayers can receive a tax credit for an amount of their property tax that exceeds a certain percentage of their
household income. This program establishes categories under which homeowners or renters are eligible for a Homestead Property Tax Credit. We would recommend that the community member consult their tax provider to determine if they are eligible for this tax credit.
What does the enrollment projection look like in the District over the next several years?
The Michigan Department of Treasury requires that schools complete an extensive enrollment study and projection using an approved enrollment projection firm. The District's website outlines the study that was completed and submitted to Treasury in its Preliminary Qualification of Bonds Application.
Treasury approved this application in February 2020, using the enrollment projection that was conducted by Professor Emeritus, Dr. Frederick Ignatovich, from Michigan State University and Stanfred Consultants. The study projects a five (5) year student enrollment projected to remain steady and actually increase by a percentage point or so, for Morley Stanwood over the next five years.
Why are there two questions on the ballot?
This spring there are two items on the ballot for Morley Stanwood community members to vote on. The first is for our operating millage. Every other year we have to put before the voters a vote to levey our operating millage of 18 mills. All districts across the State have to do this. Voters have been approving the operating millage for their local districts since the 1990’s. This is what we use to fund much of the district. Our operating millage generates 1.9 million dollars each year. At Morley Stanwood the voters have to approve it every other year. This is not new. The second item on the ballot is the bond proposal. This proposal is what the district will use to do needed repairs and upgrades, improvements and additions to the high school and elementary school.
What will happen to the Stanwood Learning Center Building?
The Stanwood Learning Center building is currently being used to run two different preschool programs. These programs are for our community’s children, but are run by agencies other than the School district. Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) and Head Start are the two programs that use the building. Of course other parts of the building are used as well at various times of the year. The media center is used by our Robotics club. The gymnasium is used by Upward Basketball. There are classrooms that are used as office space by the ISD staff that work daily in our buildings with our students. The Stanwood Learning Center will continue to serve our district.
Why not re-open the Stanwood Elementary School?
The answer is simple - cost. Opening the Stanwood building would cost, on rough estimates, over $200,000 a year. We can pay for the addition of two new classrooms, for the cost of reopening Stanwood, in five years. The district has done a cost estimate of just moving Kindergarten to Stanwood. Those cost include: secretarial, administrative, tech support, custodial, transportation, support staff, teacher staff, and a monthly fiber connection. Teacher staff wise, we would need to employ at least one extra Specials Teacher, if not two. We would need part of additional Special Education teacher. Two additional classrooms can be built for under $1 million. The cost of reopening Stanwood for Kindergarten would “pay” for the addition in five years; after that the addition is paid for.
How will this grant help us maintain the one-to-one technology that we started this year?
As you know technology has a relatively short lifespan. In order to keep abreast of today and tomorrows technology we will need to invest and continue to invest funds in the 1 to 1 technology program. Our goal is to prepare our students for not just the world that awaits them today, but for the world of work and technology of tomorrow.
What options/strategies are available within the bond proposal for the possible negative economic effects related to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The bond sale plan does not issue the entire amount of bonds immediately. If all of the bonds were issued immediately, all bonds would be outstanding and annual bond payments would be fixed for several years into the future creating little to no flexibility.
Instead, the bond proposal is utilizing a bond series strategy with the bond sales occurring over time. Each individual bond sale has the flexibility to be reduced in size, delayed in timing, or not completed should econmic conditions warrant these adjustments. These available adjustments allow for better
management of the amount of bonds oustanding and annual bond payments.
Why are the bond issues being completed in a series as opposed to being completed immediately in one bond issue?
The bond issues are being completed in a series in order to implement a long-term capital plan as well as reduce total bond interest expense.
By issuing the bonds in series the school district receives capital funding over a multiple time period as opposed to one. This allows for the continual update and replacement of school district infrastructure. A multiple year technology replacement program is also included in the plan.
If the school district sold the entire bond proposal immediately it would immediately incur interest expense on $21,000,000. By issuing the bonds in series over time the school district achieves a lower annual bond balance. The bond issues are also being completed every 2 years. This allows 2 years of bond repayment before a new bond issue is added.
In what year will the district’s existing bond issues be repaid?
OPERATING MILLAGE FAQs
What is meant by homestead and non-homestead properties?
Is this a new tax?
When Michigan voters passed Proposal A in 1993, Michigan’s property taxes for schools were restructured and reduced. Property was divided into two categories: homestead and non-homestead. A homestead property is your primary residence (the home where you live). Non-homestead properties include land and buildings such as businesses, rental properties and vacation homes that have not been designated as a primary residence.
No. This millage has been in place since 1994 with the passage of Proposal A. Morley Stanwood voters last approved a levy for 18 mills on non-homestead property 2 years ago. The current millage expires with the 2020 tax levy.
Why is this issue on the ballot now?
Under Proposal A, renewal of the 18 mills is required periodically by voters in order for the district to continue collecting this millage. Because our authorization expires in 2020, we need voter approval to continue collecting these dollars, which help maintain Morley Stanwood’s educational programs.
How will this affect homeowners?
This millage renewal will not change the taxes on your primary residence. It is a renewal on non-homestead properties only, such as business properties and second homes.
How much of our local school budget does this non-homestead millage fund?
The current assessment of 18 mills that voters are being asked to approve is used to fund a significant part of the school district’s operating budget. Approximately 18% or about $ million of the annual budget comes from the 18-mill non-homestead tax assessment.
What would happen if this millage does not pass?
If the request for the renewal of the 18 mills non-homestead were not approved, Morley Stanwood Public Schools would lose about $1.9 million (18%) of funding for each school year. Voter approval is the only way the district can receive these dollars. Losing about $1 million of the district’s operating budget would have a major impact on the educational programs offered to students and the community.