What You Need to Know
Issue 18: Sycamore Schools Master Facility Plan
One of our most important jobs as school leaders is to ensure Sycamore Community Schools’ facilities remain safe, secure, and support the educational and instructional needs of current and future generations of students and staff.
The Board of Education, along with the support and assistance of community members, staff, students, families, as well as building and financial experts spent three years creating the district’s Master Facility Plan. As the November 5 election quickly approaches, we want to provide you with additional information about the plan and the cost to taxpayers.
WATCH: Sycamore Board of Education President On The Need Now
The Cost of Delay
Through the Master Facility Plan process we identified the need for replacement and renovation of the district’s aged and obsolete buildings to support the educational and instructional needs of current and future generations of students. In addition to the need, other factors make this a cost-effective time to implement the plan.
Financial market data show that the cost to issue bonds is the lowest in nearly 40 years and construction industry data show that the cost of the plan will continue to increase. Delaying implementation of the plan will not only impact learning but will significantly increase the cost as construction costs continue to escalate and interest rates inevitably rise.
Interest Rates at Historic 40 Year Lows
A key component of cost to the taxpayer is the interest paid on the bonds. Just like with home mortgages, long-term interest rates on bonds are at the lowest level in nearly 40 years. In early October, interest rates on long term debt were some of the lowest since 1980, meaning now is the optimal time to issue bonds. An analysis shows that if interest rates go up only one half of one percent, borrowing costs could increase as much as $13 million over the life of the $127.5 million bond issue.
Escalating Construction Costs
Now is the most cost-effective time to address the district's facility needs.
Based on our extensive three-year assessment and engagement process, we have determined our two oldest buildings (E.H. Greene Intermediate and Sycamore Junior High) need replacement while two others (Sycamore High School and Symme Elementary) need significant renovations to adapt to growing shifts in education. Our vision for the future includes learning environments that are agile and adaptive, and that easily support a broad spectrum of learning styles and innovative instructional practices so that Sycamore remains a destination district for families.
What Is The Impact To Me?
The Board has worked with Bradley Payne Advisors to minimize the impact on taxpayers. Residents currently pay 2.0 mills on bonds to rebuild Blue Ash and Montgomery Elementary (1998) and Maple Dale Elementary (2010). These bonds are set to expire in 2022 and 2028, respectively. The new debt will be structured so the increase to taxpayers will not exceed 2.4 mills over what they currently pay for bond levies. If approved, the cost to homeowners will be $84 annually per $100,000 of home market value, or about $7 per month.
The debt structuring called a “wrap-around” will allow the district to collect taxes at a lower rate than the 4.0 mills that appear on the ballot for the first nine years of the 30-year term. This type of structuring is used frequently by schools when existing bond issues are in place. Once the outstanding bonds are paid off, the total millage collected will be no more than 4.0 mills for the remainder of the 30-year term. The chart above shows how this debt structure impacts taxes collected for all district bond issues.
Understanding the Ballot Language
Why Does The County Auditor's Website and The Ballot Say 4.0 Mills?
The district works with the county auditor annually to calculate the tax rate needed for current bond issues. For example, the district currently collects 1.4 mills on the 1998 issue that was originally approved for 2.39 mills.