2016 School Facilities Bond Frequently Asked Questions
Why is State School Funding always such a problem for our schools?
- The State School Funding process awards a dollar amount per ADMw (some students = 1 ADMw, others can be higher based on special circumstances). This dollar amount is the same for every public school in the state. Since 1991, the inflation adjusted amount of this has decreased over 30%. In other words, the pile of money that you would get for SSD in 1991 for our current student body would only go ~70% as far today. All schools have had to make cuts – some mitigate that with local option or bond dollars. Redmond and Bend have higher bond rates as they try to keep dollars in the classroom. Sisters School District is following a similar strategy of prioritizing the classroom experience. Our local option efforts have helped and our class sizes are much smaller than they would be without it. However, we haven’t raised a bond since 2001.
Will ADA compliant doors be part of this investment?
- Yes. Exterior and interior doors will include ADA access so as to ensure fair access to all kids. Also, The new door system will also allow time locking/unlocking for events eliminating the need for propping doors open.
Will there be training and process improvement with the new tools?
- We recognize that safety and security are the community priority and that training staff is the most important component of that. We are in the process of implementing a Standard Emergency Response Protocol, with associated staff training, that we will share with other surrounding districts.
Aren’t we just borrowing more money to pay off our current loan?
- The board made a decision in 2006 to take a loan to meet pressing facility and enrollment needs. Ideally, it was meant to be short-term and interest-only – when some bonds matured in 2011 and our levy rate dropped, the district would have issued a new bond that effectively paid off the advance that they took. Market conditions changed in 2008 and raising a new bond
was not a good option, so the district continued paying off the loan out of the operating budget – principal and interest. Fast forward to today and that’s the idea behind this investment – it pays off the remainder of that old loan with a new loan, and it also puts the payments into the capital expense rather than the operating budget.
Why replace playground equipment?
- We want to replace the aging wood structure that is most heavily used by our elementary students. This is part of the bond, not a foundation ask as some have heard.
Why replace smartboard overhead projectors that the Sisters Schools Foundation bought six to seven years ago?
- Unfortunately, bulb replacement doesn’t effectively repair them anymore. They have reached their eight year life-span and are no longer functional. New projectors can be used with lights on and are much brighter and versatile. They are a key component of daily classroom instruction.
Why replace chromebooks that were recently donated by Hoodoo?
- The school district purchased 120 Chromebooks using a grant from Hoodoo three years ago (through the Sisters Schools Foundation and we purchased 580 with general fund dollars in 2011). Except for about seven that were damaged beyond repair, they are all still in service. We’re adding about 200 per year with our general operating budget instead of doing it all at once. Life expectancy is usually three or four years and we’re maintaining them to operate as long as possible, five years in some cases. (This is in answer to what we’ve done to meet the technology need that was in the last bond but was eliminated from the ask this time.)
Why all this deferred maintenance? Don’t we take care of our stuff?
- The answer is two-fold. First, our current situation reflects a Strategic Prioritization that has put other things first: small class size, curriculum, etc. Second, this is a “new normal” for strong school districts in the face of state school funding declines. See above in School Funding. Bonds used to fund major capital expenses while the annual operating budget had enough money to run the school and put some money aside into maintenance reserve. Almost no districts have that luxury at the moment . . . when faced with keeping a teacher or cleaning HVAC ducts, the good districts prioritize the teacher and defer the duct cleaning. These districts then use future bonds to take care of that which has been deferred.
Why new tennis courts when we just removed some at the elementary school?
- The courts at Sisters Elementary School were not regulation size. Also, the district envisions community access to these courts but needs to limit non-school personnel access to the elementary areas, especially during recess. Also, there are potential space implications of a possible roundabout in that corner. For all of these reasons, new courts in a new location made sense.
$200,000 for new flooring in high school. That’s a lot. Why?
- This will cover the locker rooms, commons, some hallways (main circulation areas) that need to be stripped and refinished to improve air quality and increase ease of maintenance.
How does the new baseball field help with water rights?
- We’ve been given two extensions on the water rights related to the baseball fields but have been making consistent progress towards turning that space into grassy area (clearing brush). If we don’t ‘use’ the water rights, we risk losing them or paying just to “hold” them.
How will the Cyrus decision to sell land and no longer provide water rights mitigation affect the school district?
- It will cost the district $1,249 a year and is budgeted accordingly.
What is different in this bond compared to 2014?
- Several projects were wants, not needs. (ex: weight room at the high school)
- Reduced the amount of flooring to be replaced.
- Cost of roof replacement vs. repair.
- Purchased new vs. used equipment to replace that which was worn out (some replacements were government surplus).
- Many small line items that included remodels, cosmetic improvements, and furniture replacement.
- Eliminated reconfiguration of bus drop-off at Sisters Elementary School.
- Dropped one-to-one technology investment due to rapid pace of depreciation.
What about the project manager?
- Rate to be decided in July. Paid by the hour. Cost is about 2/3 what a private contractor would charge plus school related expertise by contracting through HDESD will be contracted for the length of the project but will not be a full-time position.
How will the bidding process work?
- There should only be about three to four major project bids (one bid per campus plus the athletic facility). One general contractor will coordinate all projects at each site and will be responsible for gathering individual bids.
What is the process for selecting the oversight committee?
- The board is looking for people with relevant qualifications and experience. The selection process will include applications followed by interviews. Selection will be made by the board, much like the budget committee process.