What You Need to Know

Issue 18: Sycamore Schools Master Facility Plan

Sycamore Community,

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

Why Now? Sycamore Board of Education President on Master Facility Plan

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.

Big picture

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.

Big picture

Escalating Construction Costs

Construction costs are also on the rise. Turner Construction’s Third Quarter 2019 Building Cost Index shows a 5.16% yearly increase in construction costs, which would result in a $7 million increase per year to Sycamore’s bond issue.
Big picture

The Bottomline

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?

Big picture

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

Big picture

Why Does The County Auditor's Website and The Ballot Say 4.0 Mills?

Under State law, the Hamilton County Auditor must calculate the new millage under a specific formula for voter consideration, ie. the projected average millage rate over the 30-year term of the issue. If approved, the district will work with the County Auditor to align the collection of property taxes with the “wrap around” debt structure, keeping the additional cost at no more than 2.4 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.

WATCH: Master Facility Community Conversation

Thank you to those who attended our Master Facility Community Conversations on October 7 and October 12. If you couldn't make it, you can still watch the entire presentation below:
2019 Master Facility Community Conversations
Learn more about the specifics of the plan, the construction timeline, and our vision for the future of our schools.
Big picture