Farmington Schools makes its case for $98 million bond

Farmington Public Schools officials are making their case for a $98 million bond request that voters will decide on March 10.

Superintendent Dr. Bob Herrera, facilities director Jon Riebe, and finance director Jennifer Kaminski last week delivered a presentation that will be repeated on January 29, 10 a.m., at the Maxfield Education Center in Farmington. You can view the forum at farmington.vod.castus.tv/vod or on the District’s TV-10 cable channel.

Dr. Bob Herrera
Superintendent Dr. Bob Herrera speaks during the January 22 bond presentation. (farmington.vod.castus.tv/vod)

During the January 22 forum, officials provided information on bond financing, outlined key projects, and talked about how state funding affects the district.

Despite adding the $98 million request to $116 million remaining from the $131.5 million bond passed in 2015, a successful bond campaign would result in a .1 mill decrease from the 2019 levy, from 3.3 to 3.2 mills. Without the new request, the levy would drop 1 mill, because higher payments over the first six years pay off items like technology and buses that have a shorter life than building improvements.

The district is asking voters to renew .9 mills of the 1 mill reduction, Herrera said.

“There’s many factors that affect the mills that have to be levied,” he said. “In general, we have 15 years left to pay $116 million. This $98 million is structured over 20 years, so we’re extending the payment plan over another five years.”

The district calculated the $98 million figure based on a 2018-19 facilities study, Herrera said. He pointed out that the 2015 request was scaled back twice from an original estimate of more than $200 million of improvements identified in a 2009 facilities study.

Kaminski said that the district cannot use capital bond funds for operating expenses. “We’re required by law to keep those dollars in a separate account,” she said.

Herrera said without the $98 million, the district would have to take operational funds to pay for items that need replacement or repair over the next 3-5 years. Passage of the bond, he said, would keep dollars in the classroom.

The state’s funding mechanism, Herrera said, makes it difficult to “right size” the district. The loss of 30 students, for instance, means a loss of $300,000 in funding. Because the loss happens across the district, officials can’t close a school or eliminate a classroom to save money.

On the other hand, when a district gains 30 students, it sees an increase of $300,000 in funding, without having to add staffing or space.

“Districts that have declining enrollment are really put in a hard spot,” he said.

Residents who attended the forum raised multiple questions about the 2015 bond issue, including why more security and technology improvements are necessary, promises made by the district during the previous campaign, and quality of completed work.

On the job less than a year, Herrera said he could not effectively address concerns, but staff members are preparing information about the previous bond and how funds were used.

A recap of proposed bond projects and more information about the March 10 proposal are posted on the District’s website.