New bond issue, saves money, makes needed renovations

September 7, 2019

Dear Editor:

This spring Farwell Area Schools leaders heard from community members that they wanted to be more involved in the development of the district’s facility and infrastructure improvement planning.  And, the school district leaders listened.

As supporters of the Farwell Area Schools and the children and families the district serves, the community members simply wanted to prioritize taxpayer dollars for the most critical needs, limit long-term indebtedness to reduce the financial burden on residents and develop a strategic plan for future infrastructure and facility needs.

The district spent weeks receiving input from elected officials, community leaders, parents, retirees and other residents about what was most important to them.  As part of this effort, the phrase “Community Unity Opportunity” was coined and it became the foundation for all the discussions that took place. It had such an impact that the school district chose to adopt it as its motto and others advocating for Farwell Schools have now done so as well.  

This productive community input and dialogue resulted in a new bond proposal for the Farwell Area Schools that not only reduced the scope (and cost) of the improvements, but also the annual amount of the tax millage required to pay for it and the length of time these taxes would be collected.  
With the elimination of various improvements, including the new bus loop, east elementary roof and building remodel, bus garage improvements and Timberland school improvements, the scope of the new bond proposal was cut by $4.4 million dollars.  The most critical components were maintained in the project and include the:

Renovations to the elementary school;
Addition of a new preschool and daycare center;
Upgrade of the 32-year old boiler systems;
Upgrade of the middle and high school roofing systems;
Installation of security and fire safety system enhancements,
New elementary school parking area to enhance student safety; and
Replacement of the elementary school gym floor and the resurfacing of the old high school gym floor and the track. 

The term of the bond, or the amount of time required to pay off the bond debt, was also reduced as requested by residents in the community discussions.  The long-term indebtedness was cut by nearly six years under the new proposal. With these changes in the cost of the improvements and the length of the debt, the district was able to reduce the tax rate by .37 mills.  All and all, these modifications will result in nearly $8 million dollars in interest savings for taxpayers.

We all know that the Farwell Area Schools has unavoidable and critical facility and infrastructure needs. Its students deserve a healthier, safer and more secure learning environment.  And the reality is, the longer these improvements are deferred the exponentially more costly they become, taking more and more dollars out of the classroom to pay for emergency repairs and inefficient system costs.

The district’s leadership has responded to the community concerns in a fiscally prudent manner pursuing every opportunity to reduce costs to taxpayers.  Now, for just an additional $3.00 a month more from the average homeowner, Farwell Area Schools will make the critical upgrades that are so desperately needed.  In doing so, the district will positively impact not only its students, but also their families, businesses and the entire community.

The November 5th Farwell Area Schools bond proposal is truly a community unity opportunity!
~ Rise Above ~

Steve Scoville
FAS Superintendent

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