Bond referendum would provide funds for buildings

March 24, 2019

By now, you’ve likely heard that Rochester Public Schools plans to hold a bond election this fall. The district has been referring to this as a “referendum” or “bond referendum.” As the district’s independent municipal financial advisor, we’d like to offer insight as to what the district is asking of the community.

There are two types of referendums — bond and levy.

Bond referendums provide funding for building improvements and construction. Levy referendums provide funding for operating expenses associated with delivering education to students (for teachers, materials, transportation, supplies, etc.)

If it helps, remember that bond is for buildings, and levy is for learning.

The funding the district is requesting in the Nov. 5 election is a bond referendum, and is a fixed dollar value, meaning this dollar value will not increase or decrease.

If successfully passed, this will provide the district a lump sum of money upfront to be used for building improvements and construction. Currently, Rochester Public Schools faces several facilities challenges which cannot be adequately addressed within its standard operating budget.

The biggest issue facing Rochester Public Schools is the fact that the district will be operating over capacity at the elementary and middle school levels within two years as a result of enrollment growth of more than 1,000 students over the past five years.

A successful bond referendum this fall will help:

• Address overcrowding in the elementary and middle schools.

• Increase school safety districtwide.

• Improve educational support spaces in the middle and high schools.

Ultimately, school districts have limited options to pay for needed capital (building) improvements, and many districts end up asking voters for permission — through a referendum election — to issue debt through a bond (which is like a mortgage) to make those improvements, and then make payments over time to pay off the bonds. That’s what Rochester Public Schools is proposing this fall.

Now that we have explained what the bond referendum means for the district this fall, we’d like to share how this referendum is different from the operating referendum in 2015.

The successful passage of the 2015 operating levy (or operating referendum) provided annual revenue that is used to cover the operating expenses associated with delivering education to students. These funds cannot be used to build new buildings.

If you would like more information about the upcoming election, visit www.rochesterschools.org/referendum. You’ll find comprehensive background information, a tax calculator, updates and recent news, and notifications for future informational meetings — all designed to help you make an informed choice.

Please plan to come out and vote on Nov. 5. This is an exciting time for your community, and we want you to be involved.