When is the election and where do I vote?
The bond election is Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any registered voter can vote at their regular polling place. Don't forget to take a photo ID. Don't know which polling place is yours? Call the Canadian County Election Board at 405-422-2422.
Where did these bond recommendations come from?
The bond package came as a recommendation from the district’s Long Range Planning Committee. This group of administrators, faculty, parents and community members has been meeting for two years to identify and prioritize the district's future needs. The committee determined overcrowding is a top concern for the district and recommended these construction projects as a way to alleviate overcrowding while still meeting the district's future needs to accommodate continuous growth. Other projects will not only help alleviate overcrowding but they will also provide opportunities for kids. From the performing arts center to the band room at Canyon Ridge, projects were designed to not only keep up with growth but also expand what Mustang can offer to its students.
What will this do to my taxes?
We expect little to no effect on taxes. Through careful planning Mustang Public Schools has worked to keep taxes steady. The Mustang Board of Education set a goal in 2009 to keep the millage level within the 28 mill range. Thanks to the incredible growth in the district's Net Assessed Valuation, the millage has always come in less than 28 mills. We expect the same thing to happen with this bond issue.
How can the school ask for a bond issue for $180 million with little to no effect on taxes?
The district's financial advisor told the school board he believed the district would benefit most from using what is known as a lease revenue bond. This is the same type of bond that was passed in 2009 and 2012, which allowed the district to fund the extensive renovations at Mustang High School, add two intermediate schools, an elementary school, gyms and more. This bond is different from a general obligation bond, in that the funds are available upfront, so the district may begin construction immediately and work on multiple projects simultaneously. Use of a lease revenue bond will allow the district to receive the funds upfront so construction projects may immediately begin. If the district had to rely only on general obligation bonds, which can only be 10 percent of the district’s Net Assessed Valuation, it would take approximately 22 years before the district would complete all of the buildings this lease revenue bond will complete in the next five years. Receiving all the money upfront and putting all the buildings on the ground in three to five years will save millions by eliminating inflation that effects construction costs.
Will this bond help with overcrowding?
Yes. It will make a difference at every level.
Elementary: For an ideal learning environment, there should be no more than 600 children in an elementary school. With the recent growth in the Mustang area, five elementary schools in the district currently exceed this guideline. Trails Elementary alone grew by 12 percent this year and is at 99.3 percent capacity. This bond will build a new elementary school on the northwest side of the district, where the growth rate is the highest.
Intermediate: A new intermediate school for fifth and sixth grade will also be constructed, taking some pressure off of both Horizon Intermediate which is at 87.5 percent capacity and Canyon Ridge, the intermediate for the north side of the district. It opened in 2013 and has already reached 97.2 percent capacity.
Middle School: At the middle school level, Mustang North is at 93.6 percent capacity. Mustang Middle School’s occupied capacity is much lower. Changing the boundary lines for those two schools to even out the populations could be necessary but will only be a temporary solution. Even with changing the boundary line, the district will still need a third middle school within the next three years.
We hear that the high school is overcrowded. Why are we not considering a second high school?
With the current state of Mustang High School, with only the buildings currently in place, MHS is at 83 percent capacity. Pictures of the hallways always circulate on the first few days of school that give the impression that the school is overcrowded. The hallways are very crowded the first few weeks until students learn different ways to reach their next destination.
Projects on this bond issue will considerably expand the capacity of the school with the addition of eight classrooms, a freshman lunchroom, a two-story science academy and a new Performing Arts Center. Moving the transportation department and school bus parking from the south side of the high school will free up even more space that can be utilized in the future so that we can continue to provide the world class education and opportunities that Mustang parents have come to expect.
Having one high school makes it possible for the district to offer a great deal more opportunities, advanced placement and speciality classes to the students. If there were two high schools, the district would have to make the same courses and extra curricular opportunities available at two campuses instead of one. With two campuses, Mustang would not be able to offer to the students the incredible variety that we can by maintaining one campus. When the AP Scholars were recognized recently, many of them mentioned how the size of the school afforded them opportunities they could not have gotten at a smaller school.
Also, maintaining one campus means we don’t divide the community; everyone from pre-k through seniors is a Bronco. Very few districts of our size have the opportunity to support the students and programs of one high school.
Also, building a new high school would consume almost all of the bond dollars for the next 7-10 years. Both intermediate schools are at or nearing capacity. Mustang North is at 93 percent capacity. Two elementary schools are in the 90 percent capacity range with two more at 88 percent. The high school, even without additions, has room to grow. Many other schools do not.
Which schools are going to benefit
All of the schools and students will benefit. Pressure will be eased at the schools regarding growing student populations at all levels. Older elementary schools will have some funds available to update their media centers and make improvements. Other items included in the bond that will benefit all students included additional and much needed heating and air conditioning improvements, technology upgrades, textbooks and more.
Why do we need a performing arts center?
Our programs are so popular and our student population has grown so extensively that the current facilities, from the stage to the classrooms are simply not big enough and safety is becoming an issue.
Mustang High School has an auditorium with a stage, flanked by a choir room on one side and theatre classroom on the other. The stage and these classrooms were built in 1971. In 1971, Mustang High School had 60 graduates and would be considered a 3A school. Mustang High School now has 2900 students in grades 9-12 and is the fifth largest high school in the state. This year there are 1,495 students at the high school in fine arts. That’s 51 percent of the MHS student population counting each student only once. Many of the students are in two or more fine arts programs.
Behind the auditorium is the band facility, constructed in 2002, approximately 14 years ago. Neither of the facilities can accommodate the number of students who would like to participate. Neither the entire choir nor the entire concert band can fit on the stage. When the middle schools reserve the auditorium for a concert, students are sitting behind the side curtains because there is no room for them all on the stage.
Mustang High School added a stage craft class, where students learn to design and build sets. Students are turned away every year because of space constrictions. Their storage is a small loft to stage right where they carry heavy set pieces up the stairs to store.
For theatre, instructor Emily Farnham must limit the students’ selection of plays to those that will fit on stage and she must reserve the stage for the entire year in advance. For Annie, the 2014 district-wide musical, the set pieces, including two large staircases, had to fold to no more than three feet wide to be moved off-stage. There is no fly system, no ability to change scenes with a backdrop. Objects must be constructed to suggest scenes. “Annie” included students from second grade through seniors as well as several MPS staff members. Should someone exit one side of the stage and need to enter from the other side, they often have to completely leave the building even in the rain or ice, to walk around to the other side; there’s no way to cross behind the stage.
The size of the facilities also has an economic impact. Storage is so limited some set pieces are stored in the stairwells. They regularly must throw away items that could be used again but there is no where to keep anything long term.
What will happen to the current auditorium and classrooms?
The current auditorium and stage will continue to be used for assemblies, meetings and size appropriate performances. The MHS band would take over the classroom spaces. As it is, they’ve had to take one of their classrooms and turn it into storage for instruments and music because the room designed for that nearly 15 years ago cannot begin to hold the inventory for a band and color guard of over 300 students. Storage areas have been turned into offices and teaching spaces into instrument storage.
How will the district pay for the utility and repair costs of the new buildings?
Mustang Public Schools has been implementing energy savings strategies for the past two years from using peak hours to installing new heating and air conditioning controls. During the 2015-2016 school year MPS lowered its total energy costs by $351,000 compared to the previous year.
For new buildings, maintenance costs are minimal because day to day upkeep is less expensive. New buildings have features such as better energy efficiency, which can decrease the amount of maintenance that is necessary. Older buildings, and problems such as leaky roofs, peeling flooring and less energy efficiency, require more frequent and sometimes more expensive maintenance and repairs.
Also, as the district’s Net Assessed Valuation continues to grow (it grew by 8.8 percent this year alone), more money goes to the district’s Building Fund which is used to pay for utilities.
Why move transportation and build a warehouse?
Making transportation more centrally located will make the department much more efficient, shortening the routes to get to many schools. As a result, there will be significant savings in fuel and less wear and tear on the bus fleet. As a bonus, it will also reduce the traffic load on south Mustang Road around Mustang Elementary, Mustang High School, Mustang Middle School and Mustang Horizon Intermediate. The move will also free up valuable space on the high school campus for parking in the short term.
Mustang Schools desperately needs a warehouse. The district outgrew the current one years ago. We cannot get discounts by buying supplies in bulk because we have no where to store it. There are literally old portable buildings and railroad cars holding surplus and supplies scattered across the district. In previous bond issues, the focus had to be on classroom space alone. In this bond issue the district can address many items that have been put on the back burner for years.
Why build a marching band practice field?
Currently, when the band starts practicing in the heat of the summer, they spend their days in the student parking lot which is striped for spaces and for yard lines. It’s newly black-topped, so it’s smooth, but the surface temperature reaches as high as 120 degrees in the summer. Movement of other traffic from summer programs can create a safety hazard as cars navigate around the band members to leave the parking lot.
During the school year, the MHS band competes with freshman, junior varsity and varsity football teams for time on the field. The practice field would be used primarily for the band, to move them off the parking lot. In the off season, it will be used by a host of other sports or PE classes that need additional space.
What is an Educational Resource Center?
An Educational Resource Center is a one-stop shop for district patrons and a blessing to the teachers. An ERC would allow Mustang Schools to have central enrollment open all year. Currently, the district holds central enrollment for a few weeks in the summer at MHS. Parents who need to enroll their children can enroll all of them in one place. Once central enrollment closes, parents must go to each child’s school and enroll them individually.
The building would also hold current central office departments like human resources and the finance department. Mustang Public School’s technology department is responsible for the care, maintenance and updating of more than 9,000 computers, iPads and Chromebooks, as well as the wireless access points and other required infrastructure, smart boards, security and more. Their storage has spilled out of the offices and lines their hallway in the administration building, sometimes head high. The four techs in the department are housed behind the administration building in an aging portable building with little room to work.
MPS long ago out grew the original board room, half of which has been turned into offices. An Educational Resource Center would include a room suitable for board meetings. It would also double as conference rooms for professional development training. The building will also include a library where teachers can check out resources to benefit their students.
The ERC would bring essential positions to a central location. The district’s content coordinators are currently housed at Mustang Education Center. There’s no room for them in the administration building where they could work easily with the directors of elementary and secondary schools. The district’s crisis counselor would also be housed at the ERC. This would make it possible for parents to meet with her about their children in privacy and away from the school their child attends.
Can you tell me about the athletics projects included on the bond?
Out of the entire amount of the bond, 5 percent would be going toward athletic projects including a new wrestling room, tennis courts, a football field house expansion and soccer facility improvements. There are some students who make it through to graduation only because they found somewhere to fit in athletics. Whatever sport they play may be the only place where they experience success. At the high school level alone, more than 30 percent of the students are involved in at least one sport. Many are involved in two or more. Providing them with additional space to help the programs be successful and keep up with enrollment growth makes sense.
Why is the language on the bond resolution and ballot written the way it is?
The language is hard to understand and sometimes sounds vague, but it’s required by state statutes. Both have to be written using very specific, legal language. The list of the projects shown on this page will be what the bond issue will be used for.
How can bond money be spent?
No salaries, benefits or related costs can be paid with bond fund proceeds. Bond issue proceeds must be spent for improving or acquiring school sites, construction, repairing, remodeling, equipping school buildings, acquiring school furniture, fixtures, equipment, and transportation.
How can the district afford to staff a new building? Teachers didn't get a step raise when the new year started.
The answer has several parts.
1. A good thing about opening a new school is that it doesn’t require the addition of an entirely new staff. Some new staff, absolutely, but many teachers are pulled from other buildings as the boundaries are realigned to populate the new school and take pressure off the rest of the schools at that level. Then, as the population grows, new teachers are added to that school.
2. And as the population grows, the district’s revenue will grow which will allow for the hiring of additional staff.
3. We have been fighting for three years to stabilize the budget regardless of what the state does. We have an incredible team working on that and it has been stabilized. We are in a very good position, unlike many schools in the state. Our Standard & Poor's rating even went up.
4. The frozen step raise for our teachers was an anomaly. It won’t happen every year. It was part of the plan to stabilize the budget.
5. And the alternative to not opening new schools is to increase class sizes. MPS is blessed with a supportive community that has made it possible to open new schools in recent years.
6. Also, as far as the utilities are concerned, those will be paid out of the building fund, which has been growing and is totally separate from the general fund. Alan Green is the director of facilities. He has been working diligently to lower utility costs. The district’s utility bills for the 2015-2016 school year were more than $300,000 less than the year before.
Will the new construction at MHS include safe rooms?
Yes. Safe rooms are planned for the science center, freshman cafeteria and classroom addition.