LPS looks to ‘zero tax rate increase’ bond issue to continue progress as a ‘destination district’
The Livonia Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to move forward with a “zero tax rate increase” bond proposal during a May 4, 2021 election.
The highlight, according to board members, is that the district would garner $186 million for needed improvements without raising the debt retirmement millage rate.
“I am thrilled to have this opportunity in front of us, to propose to our community a ‘no new tax rate increase’ bond that will still bring in the number of dollars we need to not only continue the good work of our last bond, but also look at exciting things such as the possible expansion of our career technical center and an early childhood center,” said Board President Colleen Burton. “To achieve these improvements with a zero tax rate increase is a win-win for our students, staff, parents and the community.”
Timing is Right
District Finance Director Alison Smith explains that now is the time to seek additional funding through a bond, while interest rates are historically low. She also notes that the debt retirement is at the point where the millage rate can continue at the current level and provide $186 million with no increase to taxpayers. This would not be the case if the bonds are secured at a later time.
The 20-year proposal is the latest effort to carry out the work that is identified in the district’s 10-Year Facility Plan, a living document that guides long-term projects at the district’s 28 occupied properties. Within that plan, detailed needs for each site have been categorized in areas such as paving, roofs, plumbing, electrical, ventilation systems, windows, doors, lockers and more.
It is the district’s strong fiscal stewardship that has built financial stability in Livonia Public Schools, through a steady growth of the fund balance; refinancing of prior bonds; consistently high ratings on external audits and a strong credit rating for the district.
Next Step Forward
While the 2013 bond went a long way in modernizing the district’s buildings, which are on average 60 years old, several improvements and critical needs were not able to be included in the scope and budget of the bond.
The projects completed by the prior bond are a great source of pride in our district and community. However, many items of remaining need include air conditioning in classrooms, offices and labs; the redevelopment and reimagining of the district’s library media centers; kitchens and food serving lines; and facility improvements such as improving ventilation, and further enhancing security, technology and the district’s athletic areas.
Protecting & Enhancing Investment
The next phase of the proposal addresses protecting and enhancing the district’s investments.
The district has nearly 3 million square feet of space on 700 acres, across 28 buildings.
Areas that would be included in this portion of the bond include the ongoing updating and replacement of instructional technology; furniture and instructional equipment for classrooms; further security enhancements; school bus replacements; additional replacements of playground equipment; improvements to the athletic areas such as the high school field houses, pools, annex buildings and middle school gymnasiums.
Lastly, the bond would bring innovative opportunities to further expand the district’s offerings for students and families. These forward-thinking projects include expanding the district’s Project Lead the Way program offerings, the gold standard for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. Also envisioned is a new “home” for the LPS robotics programs; a state-of-the-art comprehensive early childhood center; the expansion of the award-winning Livonia Career Technical Center while growing career tech courses that are in high demand.
“We are able to take a look at our existing offerings and be certain that we can continue to keep an eye moving forward with growth, innovation and excellence in mind,” said Superintendent Andrea Oquist. “This is important for the retention and the recruitment of students and families -- to have Livonia remain a destination district for families and our community.”
With the approval by the Board of Education, the district will now embark on a robust informational campaign within the LPS community.
“We are excited to share our vision for the future with the community,” said Communications Administrator Stacy Jenkins. “We know that every improvement in our school district benefits our entire community and propels our sense of pride. A nearly $200 million investment such as this would bolster property values and further attract families to our community for years to come.”