Questions & Answers

Earlier this school year, Ferndale Schools announced our intention to ask the voters for a zero mill increase bond that would yield approximately $125 million for our schools. Below you will find a number of questions regarding the nature of bonds, what the funds can be spent on, and how this will impact our residents. We encourage everyone to get involved in this vital process. If you wish to join the Bond Committee or ask a question that you do not see on this website please email Mr. Bill Good at bill.good@ferndaleschools.org.

Basic Information

What is a bond?

School Bond initiatives allow for school districts to tackle large projects that they would otherwise not be able to. A bond functions much like a loan. The community votes to approve a large investment that is then paid for over time through tax dollars. In March of 2020, Ferndale Schools would be able to secure more than $125 million in funding without raising the current tax rate for our community.

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What was the process for developing the bond proposal?

In Fall of 2018, the Ferndale Schools Board of Education approved the creation of a committee to explore the possibility of asking the community to pass a vote.  This committee–made up of Board members, district administrators, teachers, parents, and community members–began meeting regularly in November of 2018. In early 2019, the Board of Education approved the hiring of GMB to be the architect of the potential bond projects and Clark Construction to be the construction manager.

GMB then set out to do a full facility assessment to determine the work that needed to be done at each school. That report was given to the Bond Committee who then created the plan that is now on the March 10th ballot.

The bond proposal that is on the March 10th ballot represents the culmination of a thorough 18-month process.

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Financial Information

How would this bond impact me financially?

This bond is not predicted to raise your tax rate. If the Bond is passed by voters on March 10th, 2020, it would result in a continuation of the current tax rate–also known as a zero mill increase–which would yield about $125 million for the district over the next decade.
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If the bond were voted down, does that mean my taxes would decrease?

Yes, but not immediately. Ferndale Schools is part of the School Loan Revolving Fund (SLRF). The SLRF is a self-sustaining fund that makes loans to school districts to assist with making debt service payments on state qualified bonds issued under the School Bond Qualification and Loan Program. Loan repayment is deferred until the required debt millage yields enough to pay the district's debt service obligations. That means our residents current taxes would still go towards service obligations on our previous Bond. Once those obligations are met, it is possible the tax rate would decrease.
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What can bond dollars be spent on?

Bond proceeds can be used for the following items:

Bond proceeds cannot be used for the following items:

Bond Process

What is the bond process?

The Bond Process refers to the series of steps the district must undertake to ensure that the Bond initiative is on the March 2020 ballot. In December of 2018 the Board of Education selected the architectural firm GMB to lead this project. In January of 2019 selected Clark Construction as our construction manager. GMB and Clark have overseen extensive facility reviews. Together with the Ferndale Schools Bond Committee, the architects and construction managers have begun to create our Bond construction plan.
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Who is the architect?

In December of 2018, the Board of Education voted to approve GMB as our 2020 Bond Architect. Click the link to view their K-12 educational site.
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Community Concerns

Are we building a new school as part of the 2020 Bond?

Community discussions around school Bond Initiatives are always a chance to explore many options for the future. Bonds are the main source available to school districts to fund capital projects like the construction of a new school.

The 2020 Bond calls for the construction of a new Ferndale Lower Elementary School (K-2nd grade) which would be erected on the current site of the Center for the Advanced Studies and the Arts (CASA) which is located in Jackson Park in Oak Park.
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If a new elementary school is built on Jackson Park what will happen to Roosevelt and CASA?

If the 2020 Bond is passed and a new elementary school is built in Jackson Park, the Center for the Advanced Studies and the Arts (CASA) program would move to the Roosevelt building after a series of updates and modifications are made to the building. These construction projects will not effect the architectural exterior of the building. Details about these construction projects can be found in the 10-year plan.
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Why do we need to build a new elementary school?

The current Ferndale Lower Elementary School located in the Roosevelt Building has been a model educational environment for our students for nearly a century! This is a fantastic legacy for this wonderful facility. However, after 100 years of use by Ferndale Schools students, it has become more challenging to meet the needs of our students within this facility.

1. Roosevelt was built for an early-20th century educational environment. While this building is still very useful in certain capacities, it has some limitations which cannot be rectified with a simple renovation to the building. This limitation comes down to the physical space of the property.  Modern educational classrooms are 30% larger than the ones at Roosevelt. To learn more about the need for larger classrooms click the link. The obvious solution would be to simply enlarge the existing classrooms at Roosevelt. However, due to the limitations of the property, there is no additional space where classrooms could be added or expanded without reducing the total number of rooms. Roosevelt is currently at capacity, and reducing the total number of classrooms would not be possible. In addition, the gym at Roosevelt currently serves as a cafeteria space, which limits the amount of hours our students can be physically active within the school. This creates a significant need for the addition of a new gym or cafeteria. Physical limitations of the property also make this impossible.

2. During the facility revue process of the Bond, our architecture firm–GMB–determined that it would cost approximately $20 million to renovate Roosevelt. As stated previously, even with spending this significant sum to renovate Roosevelt, it would still not be possible to meet all of the needs of our students within the limitations of the property.

In contrast, The cost to construct a new state-of-the-art Lower Elementary School would be $25 Million. This new elementary school would solve many of the challenges that exist at Roosevelt. This new school will include classrooms which are 30% bigger and a separate gym and cafeteria. The property which this school will be constructed on is also more than double the property size of Roosevelt. This means that we will have twice as many parking spots, a pick-up and drop-off area that is designed to improve traffic flow, as well as creating a campus with double the playground space of Roosevelt!

3. Annual energy savings are also a key driver for this decision. A newly built school costs significantly less in energy than a building that is nearly 100 years old. This will allow for Ferndale Schools to save on yearly energy costs and maintenance. Utilizing the Roosevelt building for CASA students rather than Lower Elementary students would cut the operating time in half.
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Why is the Roosevelt Building good enough for CASA but not for Lower Elementary?

The Roosevelt building is part of our decade-long Facility Usage Plan (2020-2030). Due to the age of the building, it is wise to reduce the wear and tear on the facility. Lower Elementary is home to more than 500 Kindergarten – 2nd Grade students, and is open 8 hours a day! The Center for the Advanced Studies and the Arts (CASA) program is only open for three class periods a day and has approximately 250 students on campus at a time. Reduced operating time would save significant operating costs. This will allow students more room to spread out and make better use of the space than the Lower Elementary student body could.

Will Roosevelt be renovated before CASA moves in?

Yes, the Roosevelt building will receive the needed renovations to extend its useful life for the next decade while also meeting the needs of the CASA program. These minor renovations will cost significantly less than the full renovation that would have been required to create a modern Elementary School.

Will the Roosevelt playgrounds be removed when CASA moves in?

No. The playgrounds at Roosevelt will remain. The only portion of the campus that would be altered from its current state is the bus loop on the south side of the school (Oakridge St.) which would be turned into additional parking. There is also the possibility of the concrete play area being turned into additional parking as well. However, the playground spaces and structures would not be removed.

When was the last time
we built a new school?

What are the ages of
our current buildings?

What were the ages of
the three buildings we recently sold?

The last new building constructed within the Ferndale School District was the Coolidge building in 1997. Prior to Coolidge, the newest building in our district is the Ferndale High School campus, built in 1957. Below is a list of our current buildings with construction and renovation dates:

Below is the construction and renovation history of the recently sold buildings:

Why are we building a new school when we just sold three?

In 2015 the Board of Education decided to sell three of our schools (Jefferson, Taft, and Wilson). This decision was made to help right-size Ferndale Schools. At that time, we were operating at about 50% capacity. While we would have loved to keep all of our schools open and operating, it would have been an irresponsible use of taxpayer resources. After those buildings were closed and our space consolidated, Ferndale Schools was then operating at more than 80% capacity.

It is also important to note that, at the time these buildings were sold, Ferndale Schools was in a much different financial situation than we currently find ourselves. In 2015, we had seen 10 consecutive semesters of declining enrollment which had led to a rapidly dwindling fund balance. Right–sizing our district by consolidating our schools and selling excess properties was the first step in the transformation of Ferndale Schools. We are now seeing a rising enrollment trend.

We understand the concern that the district would sell three schools only to build a new one five years later. However, it is important to look at the specific buildings sold when making this comparison. Jefferson, Taft, and Wilson were constructed in the 1920s, like Roosevelt. So, even if Ferndale Schools had elected to simply close but not sell Jefferson, Taft, and Wilson, these buildings would not be good candidates for replacing Roosevelt as the new home of Lower Elementary. Also, the three buildings sold would have faced the additional challenge of sitting vacant for five years, only to be reopened and renovated, which would have added a significant cost.
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What did Ferndale Schools do with the proceeds from the sale of these three properties?

The funds from the sale of these properties can only be used to renovate or improve our current schools. As the funds for projects are needed, these funds will be spent accordingly.
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Why are you building a new elementary school in Oak Park? Why not Ferndale?

While our name is Ferndale Schools, we proudly serve the communities of Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, and the Charter Township of Royal Oak. All of our communities are equal, and thus we do not place a priority on building schools in any specific municipality.

The proposed site for the new Ferndale Lower Elementary School is Jackson Park, the current home of the Center for the Advanced Studies and the Arts (CASA).  Jackson Park is the ideal location for the new Lower Elementary Schools for a number of reasons.

Firstly, The construction of a modern elementary school requires a significant portion of land. The only plots of land large enough to accommodate the new lower elementary are our fantastic community parks. As appreciation and respect for nature plays such a significant role in the education of our students, we did not think it would be right to build a new school at the expense of existing green space. By constructing the new lower elementary at Jackson Park, we can build a modern facility without depriving the community of our much needed green space.

Secondly, Jackson Park is only one block away from Ferndale Upper Elementary School. This allows for greater collaboration between our schools and allows for the facilitation of student-to-student mentorship opportunities.

Thirdly, the current Lower Elementary School at Roosevelt is limited in space both inside the building and outside. Jackson Park is more than double the size of the Roosevelt property.  By constructing the new school on this larger piece of land, we can offer our students a significantly larger school building with more than double the current outdoor education space of Roosevelt.

Finally, by constructing the new Lower Elementary School at Jackson Park, we can continue to operate our district as usual during construction.
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Every time we get a new Superintendent, they want a bond. It just ends up being a personal wish list which never ends up being accomplished.

The Ferndale Schools Board of Education and Administration has been working in partnership with our community to build an amazing family of learners. Bond Initiatives are not dependent on the wants of individual administrators but rather come about when the ability to borrow funds intersects with the need to address capital issues.

When a Bond is passed, the resulting funds are earmarked for individual projects and can only be spent on those specific items. The Bond funding is then audited on a continuous basis by an outside firm to ensure the district is in compliance and is appropriately spending funds as voted on by the public.While it may appear that Bonds are pet projects of administrators, they are in fact a closely-monitored collaborative effort between the community, the Board of Education, and the District Administrators.

This collaborative process allows for the creation of a comprehensive roadmap for the future. It is the duty of everyone involved in the creation of that roadmap to ensure we reach the end. One of the major benefits of this potential bond initiative is that it will allow Ferndale Schools to create a decade-long facility use plan. This will allow for a comprehensive upgrading and maintenance plan for all of our buildings.
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We just passed a Sinking Fund, and it doesn't seem like that money is being spent on what was purposed. Why should we trust the district to spend the bond money appropriately?

When Ferndale Schools presented the Sinking Fund to our community for consideration, we highlighted more than $13 million in issues that would need to be addressed over the next 15 years. Each year our Sinking Fund yields approximately $700,000. That means that, since its approval, the district has only collected less than $3 million in funds.

Sinking Funds are different from bonds in that they yield a lower amount of money each year, while a bond gives you all of the funds up front. That means work will be completed over the length of the Sinking Fund (15 years) rather than immediately, as you would see with a bond.

Over the first few years of the Sinking Fund, Ferndale Schools has addressed many of our original issues as well as some others that needed to be addressed immediately.
Learn more about recent facility improvements »

Each of the projects not yet completed but listed as part of the original request will be finished within the life of the Sinking Fund. However, some projects, like the roof at Roosevelt, have been put on hold pending the outcome of the community discussions of the 2020 bond.

Our fantastic facilities team has developed a criteria for addressing our biggest areas of need first. So, while some may have wanted to see more progress made in other areas, the Sinking Fund is a limited amount of money—approximately $700,000 per year—which does not enable us to address everything at once. Our team weighs each item on our list to decide which is the highest priority to spend these funds on.
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Why are you removing a pool?  The community has a need for a pool.

Built in the 1950s, Ferndale High School has two full-size pools.  This was due to the fact that, when the building was constructed, male and female students had separate swimming classes! Pools are very costly to maintain due to chemical and heating costs. Each pool currently costs the district more than $100,000 per year to maintain. By removing a pool, we will be creating significant yearly savings to the district which can be reallocated directly into the classroom while also creating a massive new space for our students to better utilize.

After a thorough usage study, we are confident that we can meet the needs of our students and community with a single pool.
The space currently occupied by the second pool at Ferndale High School would be replaced with a new athletic training facility or “weight room.” Our current weight room does not meet the high standards we have for the facilities our students utilize. By creating a new athletic training facility, Ferndale High School student athletes will be better prepared for competition; and students at large will have more fitness opportunities within our curriculum.

Creating the new athletic training facility also opens the door for the community-at-large to utilize the space during the hours when school is not in session. More details on this plan will become available in the future.

Will the bond include curriculum-related technology upgrades?

To prepare our students to work in today’s technologically advanced workforce environment, Ferndale must invest a portion of the potential bond funding to instructional technology tools. The goal is to assist in the facilitation of teaching and learning required by colleges and employers by providing modern equipment and tools.
Learn more about how Ferndale is currently using technology in the classroom »

Technology is only one part of the improvements we are making to modernize our educational spaces.
Learn more about our vision for improving Learning Environments district-wide »
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What are some of the potential technology upgrades to be purchased with these bond funds?

Bond programs allow the District to purchase and install instructional technology upgrades in all district facilities. We will update teaching and learning equipment as well as providing 1-to-1 student devices to support learning. Security systems and access control for our facilities will also be updated, along with technology infrastructure.
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Headlee Rollback

Are all millages subject to Headlee?

The Headlee amendment applies to both the Ferndale Public Schools non-homestead millage of 18/20 mills and to the Sinking fund millage. Both of these millages have the potential to be rolled back (reduced) by the Headlee amendment. If property valuations decrease District-wide, depending on the amount, the Headlee rollback factor (this is a calculation done yearly by the county based on taxable value gains and losses), would most likely be a “1” which would then result in the millage amount not being rolled back for that year. If values increase, depending on the amount, a rollback in the authority to levy the mills may apply. This has happened in each of the last five years.

What happens to the debt millage if property values go down?

The debt millage is not subject to the Headlee rollback. The debt millage is calculated based on the amount of principal and interest to be paid on the District’s voted bonds for the year, and on the amount of taxable value of property within the district. In order to maintain a consistent millage rate at 7.0 mills, the district may borrow money through the School Loan Revolving Fund (SLRF) to help pay the principal and interest in any given year. By law the district is required to levy an amount which will cover its debt obligations but by participating in the SLRF loan program the district is projected to keep the millage rate at 7.0 mills. A forecast of the bond and loan repayments is done every year. In the event property value growth does not keep pace with historical trends, the millage rate may be required to be adjusted to ensure all bond and loan obligations are repaid as required.

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Upcoming Info Sessions

Thursday, February 13th

6:30 pm – TCEC
21131 Gardenlane

Tuesday, February 25th

6:30 pm – FECC
2920 Burdette