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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Questions? Please email bond@okemosk12.net or search for your question and answer below. 

  • How did this proposal come about?
    Okemos Public Schools is committed to a process for ongoing evaluation and monitoring of all school facilities. Continually evaluating and monitoring school facilities helps to protect academic excellence. During the early fall of 2021, working with construction, technology, and architectural specialists, the school district completed an in-depth facility study. The study identified districtwide facility needs and has helped inform the proposed direction of the bond proposal. If interested, the study is available on the district's website at: www.okemosk12.net. We also administered multiple surveys and public forums to understand the perceptions of citizens regarding a potential bond. The common feedback from parents and community members was that our facilities were “run-down” and not reflective of a district that values public education. Lastly, this information was brought before a Steering Committee of over 20 Okemos community representatives to build consensus around a final bond scope recommendation. The Board of Education eventually approved this recommendation which led us to the proposal that you see today. Learn more about this process in our Summary of Recommendation document. Our goal was to ensure community engagement in the decision-making process. This proposal reflects a first step in the district’s master plan for facility improvements.
  • What are the main goals of the proposed bond scope?
    Safety and Security – the safety and security of our students and staff is the highest priority. Peace of mind in the classroom allows for a more comfortable learning experience. Projects in the bond include greater control of our building entries. Redesigning our site drop-off and pick-up areas will focus on better traffic flow and creating a separation of parents, buses, and pedestrians. Exceptional Educational Environments – as educational trends continue to change and evolve, our facilities need to be flexible and relevant to best support best practices in teaching and learning. State-of-the-art educational environments that are comfortable will help our students to be prepared for careers of the future. Energy Efficiency / Operational Costs-Upgrades - our boilers, building controls, and mechanical systems will be designed for greater energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption. As we look at replacing significant amounts of our building roofs, additional insulation will be added to comply with current energy codes that would provide a higher-performing building exterior. Energy savings allow the district to divert funding from operational costs toward items that directly impact education.
  • How will the community be involved in design and facility planning following a successful election?
    Upon a successful election, many stakeholders, including staff and students will be engaged to define further and develop the designs of the proposed projects. We also plan to host a community forum and receive input from the community to help shape the potential designs.
  • What is the schedule for completing bond proposal projects?
    A preliminary draft of the implementation of the bond projects looks as follows. This schedule is subject to change as market conditions evolve and further reviews of the district's highest priorities are finalized. The first major scope item is the replacement of Chippewa. The design process for that size of a facility will take a little longer than a year and we anticipate bidding for Chippewa will occur in the spring of 2024. In the meantime, some smaller scope items can be designed and bid sooner. We anticipate scope items like secure vestibules at Edgewood, Bennett Woods, and Central Montessori will occur during the summer of 2023. In addition to the new construction of Chippewa commencing in the summer of 2024, other projects beginning on that timeline will likely include improvements to Hiawatha and the High School. Improvements to the High School will occur in several phases. Secure entry vestibule and main office renovations will likely occur in the summer of 2024. Additions to support a cafeteria and kitchen expansion along with an addition to the performing arts wing will occur starting in the summer of 2026 and will likely be completed by the fall semester of 2027. New high school athletic facilities for tennis, baseball, and softball will be part of the improvements made on the existing Chippewa campus and will likely be ready by the end of 2026. Following the completion of new Chippewa in the summer of 2026, space will be available to temporarily relocate the Cornell population into the original section of Chippewa and allow for the demolition of existing Cornell to commence in the summer of 2026. New Cornell will likely be online in time for the fall semester to begin in 2028. During the summer of 2028, the original section of Chippewa will be done serving as swing space and can be removed for the start of the new Kinawa facility that will connect to and share an auditorium with the new Chippewa facility. It is antincipated that the new Kinawa facility will be online for classes by the fall semester of 2030. Upon completion of new Kinawa the original Kinawa building will see partial demolition of unneeded spaces and the renovation of other areas to welcome district administration, operations, and technology offices. An area within the original Kinawa will also be renovated to receive the Meridian Township Senior Center. Other improvements include renovations to the transportation facility that will likely occur during 2027.
  • Why aren’t all of the projects being completed on the same timeline?
    The amount of work being proposed in the bond proposal is significant. As such, our Construction Management partners believe it to be the best practice to stagger the implementation of the projects. This allows for greater contractor participation and would not overstress the construction market that currently is struggling with labor availability. Greater participation of bidders means greater competition and hopefully better bid results that will benefit the school district.
  • What is the 2022 bond proposal?
    A school bond election is a bond issue used by a public school district, to finance a building project or other capital project. These measures are placed on the ballot by district school boards to be decided by the voting public. With an expected continuation of the current millage rate, the district has a significant opportunity to re-imagine the future, to accommodate long-term enrollment increases and the aging building infrastructure. Projects include: The replacement of three buildings that are beyond their useful lives, including Kinawa and Chippewa Middle Schools, and Cornell Elementary; Building safety enhancements with secure entry vestibules at each school; Pressing needs improvements district-wide, as identified in a district-wide facility assessment; Tennis courts expansion and replacement of the softball and baseball complex and equipment; Performing arts, cafeteria, and kitchen expansion at Okemos High School; and Furniture replacement and technology improvements, where needed district-wide. Read ballot language.
  • What information was provided on the ballot for the 2022 bond program?
    Below is a comprehensive breakdown of the ballot language. Read ballot language.
  • Will my taxes increase from this bond proposal?
    If approved, the ballot proposal will allow the district to sell bonds and generate approximately $275 million with no expected increase over the current millage rate.
  • What is a mill?
    A mill is equal to $1 per every $1,000 of taxable property valuation (not the market value of a home; homeowners can refer to their latest assessment for their home’s taxable value).
  • Why does the district need a bond proposal?
    Due to the size and scale of school buildings, maintenance, updates, and replacement of facilities is costly and typically not possible through the traditional funding received by school districts. Our district has several growing needs requiring large sums of money. A bond proposal is the best approach to making the significant updates and improvements needed at Okemos Public Schools. School districts in the State of Michigan often seek approval for bond proposals every 5-10 years. This allows for significant improvements to occur and keep district facilities current. Prior to 2022, the last bond proposal put before the Okemos Public Schools district voters was a successful election in 2019. The Board of Education and district administration want all Okemos Public Schools facilities to reflect the district’s academic excellence and commitment to public education. Upgraded facilities that support education for our current and future students are essential to achieve this goal.
  • Why is this important now?
    While planning for the 2019 bond, it became clear that if enrollments continued to increase, a comprehensive process would need to be taken to review enrollment trends, neighborhood composition, and potential solutions to create a longer-term plan. Today, the district has a unique opportunity to ask voters for authority to generate significant funds for improvements with no expected change to the current tax rate. The 2019 Bond significantly improved the schools' technology, transportation, and comfort, along with building-focused updates. This next bond focusesn more on the “bricks and mortar” side of creating modern and equitable places for student learning and growth. The district has developed a 2020-2024 Strategic Plan. Some 15% of respondents to the strategic plan survey indicated that “Aging Facilities” was one of the district's greatest challenges in the next five years. In response, the plan identified “Priority 10: Provide high quality and equitable facilities and learning environments for students, staff, and community.”
  • How are Michigan schools funded?
    The state of Michigan provides funding to school districts on a per-pupil basis, based on the cost of educating the average pupil per year. The state of Michigan does not provide funding to address facilities, which are funded exclusively through local property taxes. There are two ways that school districts can raise money for facility improvements: levying sinking funds and selling bonds.
  • What is the difference between a bond proposal and a sinking fund?
    Bond proposals are used to finance major capital projects. The district is able to borrow money upfront and pay back the bond amount over time. Sinking funds are provided on an annual basis to address the immediate needs of school buildings, facilities, and surrounding school sites. This is intended for short-term improvements rather than major renovations and upgrades.
  • How does our current millage rate compare to other districts?
    At 7.0 mills, the current rate is among the sixth lowest level in Ingham County. The district does not intend to change the current tax millage rate with the potential 2022 bond program but rather expects to continue at the current level.
  • How much revenue will be generated by this bond proposal?
    The bond proposal, if approved, will generate approximately $275 million.
  • What has the bond money been used for in the past?
    Updating heating and cooling systems, replacing doors and windows with energy-efficient models, reroofing, parking lot repaving, and new carpets are just a few of the expenditures. A complete listing for 2001 through 2011 is posted on the district’s website, www.okemosk12.net.
  • How was the amount of the bond proposal determined?
    The amount of this request was based on projected needs and estimated costs, with the intent of not imposing an additional tax burden on businesses and citizens in the Okemos community.
  • What would happen if the bond proposal was not approved?
    The bond proposal enables the district to continue to make transformational improvements without sacrificing instructional funds. Failure to approve the bond proposal would mean that the district would have to delay improvements and that any emergency repairs to address potential safety issues at district facilities would have to be paid for with general operating funds that would otherwise go to support educational programs for students.
  • Why does the district say no “expected” tax increase? What is going on here?
    The district wishes to be honest and transparent with our community regarding all potential outcomes from the bond proposal, even if they are unlikely or rare. The bond proposal authorizes the district to borrow $275 million dollars. Taxes collected to pay for the bond are based on property values (taxable value not SEV). If property values increase more than expected than fewer mills from what is anticipated may be needed to fund the bond. In the rare occurrence that property values decrease then additional mills may be needed to fund the bond.
  • What will the future of Cornell Elementary be?
    The current Cornell Elementary building is overcrowded and nearing the end of its useful life. The existing building will be demolished and a new two-story elementary building will be constructed on its current site with modern learning spaces, separate parent and bus drop-off loops, and new playground equipment. The decision to rebuild Cornell on its current site was approved by the Board of Education in May 2022.
  • What will happen to the Powell Road site?
    The Powell Road site will remain available for future school district improvements.
  • Where will Cornell Elementary students go during the construction process?
    In order to safely and efficiently construct a new elementary building on the Cornell campus, students would need to be relocated during demolition and construction. Students would be temporarily moved to a portion of Chippewa Middle School prior to its demolition.
  • Will redistricting be required with the replacement of Cornell Elementary?
    Not at this time. A priority of our 2022 bond program planning was to minimize change for our students and community. The current grade level configurations and districting will remain the same.
  • What will the future of Kinawa and Chippewa Middle Schools be?
    Kinawa and Chippewa Middle Schools will be replaced with two connected buildings on the Chippewa site. Fifth through sixth grade and seventh through eighth grade will remain separate with dedicated parent and bus drop-off loops yet will share some amenities such as a state-of-the-art auditorium. Additional features will include outdoor learning spaces and natural pathways throughout the site. A portion of the current Chippewa Middle School will be renovated and used as part of the new shared space between the new middle schools. Significant additions will be made to construct the two schools. The current Kinawa Middle School will be renovated and transformed into the new district operations and services building. This project reuses areas which were recently improved and will be the last project completed in the multi-phase bond program.
  • What is flexible learning furniture?
    Flexible learning furniture is unlike traditional school furniture, as it is designed to be easily moved, collapsed, or repositioned to meet the specific instructional needs of a student or lesson. This furniture is designed to fit together in multiple formations, which can quickly change the layout of the classroom.
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