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What does a $49.5 million referendum really cost? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 16 March 2016 17:22

School district will try to help voters understand impact at March 23 information event

Reaching out to residents in the final weeks before a $49.5 million referendum is presented in the spring election, the Grafton School District will present an information exposition on the spending plan Wednesday, March 23.

The event, scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Grafton High School cafeteria, will provide details about proposed upgrades to school facilities.

Voters will decide two spending questions on the Tuesday, April 5, ballot.

The first question will ask if the district should borrow $47.7 million for renovation and reconstruction work at Grafton High School, John Long Middle School and Kennedy, Woodview and Grafton elementary schools. 

A second question will ask if the district should borrow $1.8 million to upgrade outdoor physical education, athletic and recreation areas. 

The March 23 event will feature a variety of information stations where residents can have referendum questions answered. 

The stations will cover topics such as infrastructure repairs, safety and security; improvements to elementary schools; additions of a technical education center and middle school on the high school campus; outdoor field upgrades; performing arts upgrades at the high school; converting the existing John Long Middle School to an elementary school for grades three through six; and referendum financing.

Residents are invited to stop by any time during the event. 

School districts cannot lobby for yes votes on referendums but can distribute information outlining the impact of their decisions. The district has already used its website, a newsletter and fliers for that purpose.

Approval of $47.7 million in upgrades would result in an estimated tax-rate increase of $1.43 per $1,000 of equalized valuation. That would mean an annual increase of $286 in school taxes on a $200,000 house. 

If the $1.8 million in upgrades to outdoor facilities is approved, property owners would pay six cents more per $1,000 of equalized valuation, or $12 more annually on a $200,000 home. 

The $47.7 million in upgrades would be paid for through borrowing in a 24-year bond plan, though the actual impact on the tax rate would vary annually depending on budget factors.

In a presentation to the School Board on Monday, Supt. Mel Lightner said the projected tax rates are based on “very conservative estimates” of 4.42% for the interest rate and 2% for property value growth.

“The rates for municipal bonds are at a historic low,” said Lightner, who noted that the bond rate was 3.34% in early March.

Lightner said that if the bond rate is 1% lower than the 4.42% estimate, the total tax rate increase of $1.49 per $1,000 of valuation would be pared to $1.24, and that if districtwide property valuation increases by 1% more than estimated, the tax rate increase would drop to $1.10.

District residents will continue to pay off debt from a 2000 school referendum at a rate of 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation for five more years. To lessen the tax impact of the 2016 referendum, Lightner said, a financing plan calls for structuring payments on new debt to minimize large fluctuations in the tax rate from year to year.

“We enveloped, or wrapped, the new debt around the old debt,” Lightner said. The result, he added, would be to keep the projected tax rate increase at $1.49 from 2017 to 2023, followed by lower increases each year through 2041.

Citing the district’s commitment to fiscal responsibility, Lightner said the tax rate to support Grafton schools has dropped 85 cents per $1,000 of valuation during the last two years.

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