Basic Needs Referendum – Focus on Facilities

 On Tuesday, April 6, 2010 residents will have the opportunity to vote on two referenda questions, each to address basic needs in the Green Bay Public Schools. Question 1 requests permission to borrow $11 million for urgent facility repairs throughout our schools, and Question 2 requests permission to borrow $5.7 million to address significant technology needs. Each question must be voted on independently.

Every school building in the District (36) would be impacted if the referendum is successful.  All buildings would receive security/safety and technology upgrades, with many schools also receiving major and/or minor building system upgrades (please see the district website for a complete list of projects).  Let’s take a few moments to focus on Question 1 – our most pressing facility issues.

How did we get to this point?

 

Each year our Facilities Department validates and prioritizes our Five-Year Maintenance Plan. Due to changes since the early 1990s in the state funding formula and increasing mandated expenses, our operational budget has been reduced by $28 million over the past four years.  Based on these reductions, our annual capital improvement budget has been reduced from $1.66 million 10 years ago to $660,000 per year requiring some of our identified facility projects to be deferred in order to save programs and services that directly impact children.

We hoped to address many of the most urgent repairs with the last referendum effort in 2007. After that referendum failed, the District assembled the Enrollment Management Task Force (EMTF) to study the District’s facility needs. After the EMTF completed its 16-month study, the Board of Education spent 12 months reviewing and discussing the report.  The Board believes these facility projects need to be done at this time to protect the infrastructure of the District.

The Enrollment Management Task Force reviewed the project list and, with the assistance of District staff, put the projects into priority order and separated them into four key categories: 

  • Urgent-System Failure-Security/Safety (1-3 years)
  • Return-on-Investment
  • End-of-Life-Cycle (4-6 years)
  • Long-Term Capital Improvements (7-10 years)

The projects for this referendum are from the Urgent-System Failure-Security/Safety category, and have been prioritized as the most critical of more than $60 million in identified projects.

The district is committed to rebuilding the capital improvements budget, and will work towards adding $110,000 a year, with a goal of reaching a budget of $1.3 million per year by 2017. However, until the state funding formula changes, the district will continue to face serious financial challenges. And while we will be able to address more of our capital needs in the budget, the idea of future referenda for large projects will be based upon need.

Why now?

The Board of Education voted unanimously to seek referendum approval to complete these projects in recognition that continuing to defer these projects will only result in even more costly repairs in the future. Many of the roofs, heating and cooling systems, and windows are long past their life expectancy.  Replacing old windows, heating and ventilation systems, and lighting will also reduce the District’s energy usage and make us more efficient. 

Moving forward to address these critical needs also allows the District to take advantage of a “window of opportunity” that is available right now for very low or even zero-interest financing. This Federal stimulus program, only available through August 2010, could significantly reduce the cost to local taxpayers by saving the district over $1 million in financing costs.

Fiscal Responsibility

 The principal and interest on the bonds will be paid back over a six-year period, which will help minimize the total amount of interest on the borrowing.   The time is also favorable now for investing in our facilities because the district is retiring a large portion of debt and interest rates are at a 40 year low.  Additionally, the contracting market is highly competitive at this time. As we address our most critical capital needs, the District continues comprehensive long-term facilities planning.  Investing in the basic infrastructure of our buildings today demonstrates sound stewardship of district resources.  

Make an Informed Decision

We urge all residents to learn more about the proposed referenda, ask questions, and be prepared to make an informed decision on Tuesday, April 6th.  Informational meetings will be held at 6:00 pm on March 18 at Elmore Elementary School and March 30 at East High School. Residents can also log on to the District’s website anytime at www.greenbay.k12.wi.us/basicneedsreferendum or e-mail referendum@greenbay.k12.wi.us with questions.

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