Voters to consider $186M school bond Tuesday – Norman Transcript
On Tuesday, area voters will decide whether to support a $186 million Norman Public School bond that would generate funding for storms shelters at school sites, new instructional materials, facility upgrades and a bevy of other items.
According to school officials, the bond would result in improvements at every site in the school district and is part of an ongoing, long-term planning process that included technology upgrades in 2009 and renovations of both high schools with a 2014 bond.
Here’s a breakdown of what the bond is about and what approving it will cost taxpayers.
• How we got here: District officials said the bond is the result of a variety of studies and surveys that ultimately identified more than $300 million worth of projects before the district narrowed the focus. That work included a demographic study, facility assessment and district-wide survey of parents and stakeholders. According to school officials, the top priority following these information-gathering efforts are safety and security upgrades.
• Storm shelters and security upgrades: Student safety is a top priority, NPS Superintendent Nick Migliorino said. The bond would fund new storm shelters at every site in NPS that doesn’t currently have one — spaces the district plans to use for fine arts programs, as well.
The bond also contains financing that would modernize interior door locks, provide a system that alerts the district if exterior doors are left open, upgrades to alarm systems, intercoms, security cameras and more.
• Dimensions Academy: Serving more than 3,000 students a year from across the district who need an alternative education setting, Dimensions Academy is currently housed in leased, aging facilities. The bond would provide $11 million to either build a new, centralized facility or renovate an existing building.
“Dimensions provides students with the resources they need to be successful in elementary, middle school and high school, and we’ll invest what we need to invest to make sure they have the best opportunities to succeed,” Migliorino said. “Dimensions changes lives, and we serve kiddos in and outside our school district. We also have resources that we send out to other sites, such as trauma training or individuals counseling, that are based in the Dimensions facility.”
“We change lives at Dimensions,” Migliornio said of the facility. “It’s an area sorely underfunded by the state, and we need to have a facility for those students that their families and our staff can truly be proud of.”
• Transportation upgrades: Due to state law governing bonds, the proposal is actually split into two propositions. The first is the bulk of the money; the second is about $3.5 million for transportation. That money would be used to bring new buses into the NPS fleet and retire vehicles that are near the end of their life cycles, Migliornio said. It would allow the district to retrofit older buses with new technology, including new routing software and additional cameras.
• Technology/instructional materials: A chunk of the bond would fund new technology and instructional materials, including $20.72 million for new student devices, library technology and instructional technology.
Another $17.07 million would pay for software subscriptions, textbooks and other instructional materials.
• Nancy O’Brian Performing Arts Center: The bond would fund an expansion of the 15-year-old performing arts center, adding more meeting space for the district and Norman community and enhancing the current space.
• Paint, furniture and lights: A portion of the bond would fund renovation projects throughout the district, new paint, lighting fixtures and furniture for schools, HVAC system upgrades, roof repairs and a wide variety of maintenance projects.
• Cost: What about the price tag? It’s been 18 years since NPS asked for a property tax increase, and this bond would increase the district’s millage rate to about 30 (it’s currently around 24). A mill is a $1 tax on $1,000 of taxable property value. So experts say the bond would increase property taxes by $40 to $45 a year for a $100,000 home.
To put that in perspective, that would put NPS in the same category as schools like Moore (28.71), Broken Arrow (29.64), Yukon (29.68), Sand Springs (30.54), Jenks (30.64) and Tulsa (30.66).
• Voting: Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Transcript will print a list of polling places on Election Day. You can find information about polling places on voter registration cards or by visiting clevelandcountyelectionboard.com.