Bond Frequently Asked Questions

Kids on gymnasium floor raising hands to participate in discussionThe St. Johns Public Schools community will have the opportunity to vote on a bond proposal on the May 7, 2024 election ballot. If approved by voters, this bond proposal would provide $92 million for district-wide improvements with a projected zero mill increase, meaning there is no tax rate increase expected from the current rate.

Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the scope and financial information of the bond.

Bond Scope Questions

A bond proposal is how a public school district asks its community for authorization to borrow money to pay for capital expenditures. Voter-approved bond funds can be spent on new construction, additions, remodeling, site improvements, athletic facilities, playgrounds, buses, furnishings, equipment, and other capital needs. Funds raised through the sale of bonds cannot be used on operational expenses such as employee salaries and benefits, school supplies, and textbooks. Bond funds must be kept separate from operating funds and expenditures must be audited by an independent auditing firm.

This bond proposal addresses high-priority projects and focuses on improving four key areas: Safety & Security, Early Childhood Care, Infrastructure & Education Efficiencies, and Athletic & Arts Facilities.

In 2010, voters approved a $64 million bond issue for improvements to the high school, technology and buses throughout the district, and athletics sites. While the 2010 bond took care of some critical issues at that time, there are many infrastructure systems that have since outlived their expected useful lives. This bond proposal would address the remaining, currently identified issues. The District continues to perform preventative maintenance on these systems. Specific systems have exceeded their expected lifecycle(s) – roofing, flooring, etc. If the bond proposal is approved, it would include the replacement of the identified systems and would extend the useful life of our school buildings. This bond proposal also addresses educational programs and learning environments by constructing a new early childhood center and improving athletics and fine arts facilities.

The bond would fund construction of a new Early Childhood Center where Oakview Elementary is located. SJPS currently offers early childhood programs at our elementary schools, which is causing crowding.

  • Removing early childhood programming from our elementary schools will free up space in those schools and allow the district to expand access to additional early childhood programming.
  • Consolidating the programs in one building would improve issues with staffing and licensing and allow the focus to be on early childhood education. These programs may include additional sections of GSRP, tuition-based preschool programming, childcare, before and after-school childcare and early childhood special education.
  • The building would have a gym available for community rental along with a community conference room.

The proposed Early Childhood Center, located on Oakview’s campus, would support ages 0-5, creating centralized access to early childhood care for parents of young children while preparing their students for kindergarten. The ECC is included in this proposal to support not only preschoolers but young families.

The Young Fives Program will remain in the Elementary Schools.

The Early Childhood Center’s programs for ages 0-5 would be tuition or federal and state grant-based.

If approved, the existing stadium field would remain natural grass.  The current soccer field would be replaced with a new, lighted multi-use synthetic turf field.  This multi-use field would increase the hours of playability, reduce required resources and costs for maintenance, and provide a high-quality, highly playable field for our community to use. 

This article compares the costs and safety issues related to synthetic and natural turf fields.  We will continue to work with our architect/engineer to select a field that will meet the needs of our student and community athletes.

The bond, if approved, would fund a complete replacement of the stage in the auditorium to support our fine arts programs. New auditorium doors and theatrical lighting improvements would also be included in the proposal.

Playgrounds require inspection to ensure that equipment and safety surfacing meet current codes and regulations, including determining if any physical deformations of the equipment exist.  To ensure compliance with current codes, as well as considering ongoing maintenance costs to keep the existing equipment safe, it was determined that the replacement of the equipment would be the appropriate long-term solution. This bond would provide funding to improve our youngest learners’ access to play to supplement their classroom learning. Adding new playground equipment at schools would also help to provide an equitable playground experience, no matter which school students attend.

Photo of aging swings at elementary playgroundPhoto of aging basketball hoop and blacktop

Photos from current playgrounds

Our existing maintenance and office structures are beyond their useful life expectancy. Constructing a replacement facility would not only update the building; it would also allow us to incorporate the transportation office into a new facility to eliminate an extra building and improve communication and staff efficiency.

Photo of aging bus garagePhoto of deteriorating metal beam within aging bus garage

The East Olive building has aged and is no longer up to code or conveniently located. It would need fire suppression and significant remodeling of most of the building that already does not meet standards for early childhood centers.

Financial and Tax Questions

If approved by voters, this bond proposal would provide $92 million for district-wide improvements with zero mill increase expected over the prior year’s levy.

We use the wording expected only to communicate that the tax rate information is a projection of the future. These projections are based on careful analysis of financial data by both the district and our municipal financial advisors based on current information. SJPS does not anticipate an increase in the tax rate.

Below are some financial details of the projection:

  • St. Johns Public Schools currently levies 7.0 mills for debt as previous bond debt is paid off.
  • If approved by voters the proposal would add a projected 1.95 mills to 5.05 mills expected to be needed in 2024, totaling an estimated 7.0 mills.
  • If approved, the rate is projected to remain at 7.0 mills through 2044 with decreases over time as bond debt is paid off.
  • Careful financial projections of the projected taxable value of property in our community are calculated with current data.

No. The bond millage rate is estimated to remain at 7.0 mills through 2044, and thereafter it is estimated to decline due to bond repayment and taxable value growth, as illustrated in the chart below. If the bond is not approved by voters, the millage rate is estimated to decline to 6.85 mills in 2027.

Graph showing that the projected millage rate stays at 7 mills through 2045 before dropping off. This is compared to the rate if the bond did not pass, in which case the seven mill rate would remain until 2027 before dropping off.

Each year the bond millage rate is recalculated based on the school district's new taxable value figure and the bond payment required in the upcoming year. Due to repaying prior outstanding bonds along with taxable value growth, it is estimated that the bond millage rate required to pay the existing bond payments will decline to allow this proposal to be funded without having to change the present bond millage rate of 7.00.

SJPS’s millage rate has been 7.00 mills without a tax rate increase since 1995.

The graph below shows how the zero-mill increase compares to our neighboring districts.Graph showing SJPS's levied 7 mills compared to surrounding school districts. St. Johns levies more than 4 districts, the same as three other districts, and less than four districts in Clinton County.

SJPS has very intentionally chosen to continue to enhance Eureka and Riley to ensure these students have access to a similar caliber of learning environments as those at Oakview and Gateway. Using funds to upgrade these buildings—rather than replace them completely—allows bond funds to spread further and be used in other priorities across the district.

Michigan law requires that the expenditure of bond proceeds 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 each series to ensure compliance.

Indirect costs, sometimes referred to as “soft costs,” are costs required to prepare for and complete a construction project. They occur throughout the duration of the bond projects, which in St. Johns case are anticipated to occur over five to six years.

  • Architect’s Fees (<8%):  Fees to allow further program development, design, documentation of projects for construction, issuance of bidding documents and field observation during construction
  • Construction Manager’s Fees (<8%):  Fees to manage the construction process including: 
    • Ongoing estimating and budget confirmation throughout design
    • Coordination of bidding process and post-bid evaluation of bids received
    • Coordination of subcontractors
    • On-site staffing for construction observation
  • General Conditions (2%):  Costs that support construction that are not captured by subcontractors’ bids. These include: 
    • Temporary facilities  (Job trailer(s) and temporary restrooms, temporary fencing, on-site safety measures (signage, etc.))
    • Temporary utilities (power, water, gas, etc.)
    • Dumpsters for waste and recycling
    • Material testing costs
    • Permit fees
  • Soft Costs/Consultants (2%):
    • Geotechnical services
    • Site surveys
    • Permit fees
    • Foodservice, technology and security consultants
    • Commissioning services
  • Contingency (10%)
    • Reserved to accommodate unforeseen costs related to existing building and site conditions
       

The proposal would generate $92 million which would be spent over seven years. The bonds are proposed to be issued in three separate series (2024, 2026, 2028). This would allow for years of bond repayments to occur before a new bond issue is completed.

While funding from this bond proposal is independent of the district's general fund operating budget, the bond would likely have a positive impact on the district’s general fund by allowing the district to reallocate operating funds that are currently being spent on aging facilities, mechanical systems, and technology. The operational savings generated from new and more cost-efficient facilities could be redirected to student programs and resources.

On the December 1, 2024 property tax bill.

No. Most technology purchases are required to be amortized (paid off?) over a 5-year period beginning at the time of installation.

No. Bus purchases are required to be amortized (paid off?) over a 6-year period beginning at the time the buses are put into service.

Yes, businesses and second homes (non-homestead properties) and primary homes (homestead properties) are treated the same regarding bond millage.

If a business has been granted an Industrial Facilities Tax ("IFT") credit then only half of the taxable value is subject to the bond millage. The business would need to verify if some of the taxable value has been designated for the IFT credit. One item a community member could research is the Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit. The Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit is a method through which some taxpayers can receive a 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 community members consult their tax advisor to determine if they are eligible for this tax credit.

The foundation allowance follows the student, which means the district receives State funding for each student that is enrolled at St. Johns Public Schools. For each student who attends through schools of choice, SJPS receives state funding, similar to how it receives State funding for in-district students.

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 proceeds must be kept separate from operating funds and expenditures must be audited by an independent auditing firm. 

If approved by voters, the district’s Architect/Engineer would design the proposed projects and prepare construction documents and specifications for the projects. Once the projects are designed, the district’s Construction Manager will assemble bid packages and publicly advertise to solicit competitive bids for all work. This is required by law, as outlined in the Revised School Code. This process ensures that the district selects the lowest responsive and responsible bidder. All qualified contractors will have an opportunity to attend a pre-bid meeting to obtain additional information and project clarification. All qualified contractors will have the opportunity to participate in the competitive bid process.

Each project will be required to be submitted to both the Bureau of Construction Codes (BCC) and the Bureau of Fire Services (BFS) for both plan review and permitting. These agencies will review the projects to ensure they comply with applicable codes before any building permits are issued. Building plans and specifications must be signed and sealed by a Licensed Architect/Professional Engineer before submission. As of 2019, Michigan law requires school districts to consult on the plans for the construction or major renovation regarding school safety issues with the law enforcement agency that is the first responder for that school building. This consultation would happen after a bond proposal has been approved by voters and before construction documents are finalized prior to project commencement.

Voting Information Questions

Visit Michigan.gov/vote to register to vote online. It is recommended by the Secretary of State to register by mail by April 22, 2024 to participate in the May 7, 2024 election. Individuals may also register in-person at their local clerk’s office through May 7, 2024, with the required documentation. For assistance in obtaining the address of your local clerk, visit Michigan.gov/vote.

Owners of property are only eligible to vote if they reside within the school district’s boundaries. To be eligible to register to vote you must be:

  • A Michigan resident (at the time you register) and a resident of your city or township for at least 30 days (when you vote)
  • A United States citizen
  • At least 18 years of age (when you vote)
  • Not currently serving a sentence in jail or prison

Yes, if you rent a house or apartment, you can still vote. You must be a registered voter in the city or township you are living in and live within the school district’s boundaries.

Registered voters must complete and submit the application to receive their absentee voter ballot. To vote by mail, fill out the application and sign it, and then return it to your local clerk. For assistance in obtaining the address of your local clerk, visit Michigan.gov/vote. When filling out the application, if you check the box to be added to the permanent absentee voter list, you will get an application mailed to you before every election. 

 

If you registered to vote after absentee voter ballot applications were mailed, applications may be obtained online at Michigan.gov/vote. Absentee voter ballots are available as early as March 23 through election day, May 7, 2024.

Registering to vote:
  • The last day for voters to register by mail is April 22, 2024
  • Voters may register in person through May 7, 2024 (election day) with the required documentation
Absentee Voting: 
  • Absentee voter ballots are available as early as March 23 until May 7, 2024 (election day)
  • On or before Saturday, March 23, 2024 - Absent voter ballots must be available to be sent to voters serving in the military or living overseas
  • Absentee voter ballots must be available by Thursday, March 28, 2024 to be sent to members of the general public
  • Contact your local clerk with questions
Attend a public information community forum:
  • January 30 Athletics Bond Update (Soccer & Tennis) at the High School Media Center
  • February 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the High School Media Center
  • April 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the High School Media Center

Our existing maintenance and office structures are beyond their useful life expectancy. Constructing a replacement facility would not only update the building; it would also allow us to incorporate the transportation office into a new facility to eliminate an extra building and improve communication and staff efficiency.