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SMART FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SMART INITIATIVE
 

The SMART FAQS are provided to answer questions regarding the SMART Initiative and will be updated on an ongoing basis.
 
On November 4, 2014, Broward County voters approved a General Obligation Bond (Bond) referendum that provides critically needed funding for Broward’s students.  Broward County Public Schools has committed to investing the funding to enhance students’ learning environments by focusing on improvements in Safety, Music, Art, Athletics, Renovations and Technology (SMART). This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document has been provided to better educate the community about the Bond. 


Click to Download a PDF Version of the FAQ
 

Questions Updated (12/11/2014)

When will the $800 million General Obligation Bond expire (how many years?) 
The General Obligation Bond will provide capital funding. How will this benefit music, art and athletics? 
The School Board recently adopted the District’s Educational Facilities Plan, which spans the next five years. How will it change now that the Bond has passed?


Questions Added (10/8/2014)

Will small local businesses have a preference in securing contracts for work related to the Bond proceeds?
Will the District be sharing information with municipalities on how the bond will impact their specific city?
How are individual school projects being prioritized within the five priority categories?
Where can I find the needs assessment reports for specific schools?
When will the Bond projects begin?
Are there opportunities to attend meetings to learn more about the SMART initiative?


Questions Added (8/21/2014)

What is a General Obligation Bond referendum and how is it used?
Why does the District need the Bond?
How will this Bond impact a property owner?
Why should Broward County citizens, who do not have children in the school system be concerned about what is happening in the schools?
Specifically, how will the money be spent? What will be accomplished through this funding?
Will the bond request cover all the identified capital needs in the District?
Will each school receive a portion of the bond money?
Is bond money used for pay raises or other operating expenses?
Will parents and stakeholders be able to identify the needs of each school and how the Bond will address specific deficiencies?
How will the District ensure that the money from the bond will be spent appropriately?
Is the District issuing long-term debt for technology?
Now that the $800 million General Obligation Bond is approved, will the amount of debt overburden the District?
Will Homeowners experience a further increase in property taxes with the issuing of the General Obligation Bond and rising property values?
 
1. Q: What is a General Obligation Bond referendum and how is it used?
  A: The Florida Constitution allows a governing body, in this case, the School Board of Broward County, Florida, to go directly to Broward’s voters with a referendum to obtain approval for a clearly specified reason.
 
A bond referendum is an opportunity for our community (voters) to decide if the District will be authorized to borrow money through the sale of a bond for the purpose of financing capital projects (school safety projects, repairs and renovations for facilities, and technology infrastructure). Our community approved the Bond on November 4, 2014.

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2. Q: Why does the District need the Bond?
 

A: In May 2008, the state legislature reduced the tax on property values that provides capital revenues for school districts to address facility and equipment needs from $2 per $1,000 of taxable value to $1.75.   In 2009, the legislature further reduced the tax rate by another 25-cents, to $1.50 per $1,000 of taxable value.  As a result of the loss of funding, Broward County Public Schools was forced to cut $1.8 billion in capital projects (e.g. renovations, new construction and equipment) for schools and District facilities.

In other words, Broward County taxpayers are investing significantly less in education today than they did seven years ago. Our District and other Florida school districts have asked the state legislature to restore the capital millage without success.
 
Broward County Public Schools is in need of additional capital funds and initiated  a Bond referendum to address critical needs.
 
Forty percent (40%) of the District’s school buildings are over 25 years old, and the average age is 27 years old.  Just as in homes, roofs, air conditioners, electrical systems, and plumbing have a limited life span and are in need of repair or replacement. The Bond will address the following critical areas:
  • School improvements to support student health, safety and security.
  • Technology and technology infrastructure to support student learning, digital environments, and 21st century classroom instruction.
  • Facility repair, renovation and replacement to ensure quality schools in the community.

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3. Q: How will this Bond impact a property owner?
  A: A homeowner in Broward County, whose home is valued at $225,000, will realize an average increase in capital outlay tax of $50.00 per year over the life of the bond.  Even with this modest increase, the homeowner’s capital outlay tax will still be approximately
$127.00 less per year than it was in 2007.  This means the homeowner will still be paying approximately 26% less in capital outlay tax than seven years ago.
 
A condominium owner in Broward County, whose condo is valued at $105,000, will realize an average increase in capital outlay tax of $20.00 per year over the life of the bonds.  Even with this modest increase, the condominium owner’s capital outlay tax will still be approximately $72.00 less per year than it was in 2007.  This means the condo owner will still be paying approximately 33% less in capital outlay tax than seven years ago.

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4. Q: Why should Broward County citizens, who do not have children in the school system be concerned about what is happening in the schools?
  A: Strong public education is the foundation of our country.  Excellent schools support a vibrant community and economy, and ensure a well- educated and highly skilled workforce that attracts and retains businesses. School facility renovations generate jobs and grow our local tax base. When schools are improved, this adds value to a community and property values.

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5. Q: Specifically, how will the money be spent? What will be accomplished through this funding?
 

A: Broward County Public Schools conducted an independent needs assessment, using a nationally renowned company, of all schools and facilities.  The needs assessment provides an objective status of the physical and educational adequacy of our schools and administrative sites. This information provides the basis of current and future capital planning efforts. The bond proceeds will be utilized to address the most critical priorities identified by the needs assessment and will address the following:

  • Safety and security
  • Repairs and renovations
  • Technology and technology infrastructure 
6. Q: Will the bond request cover all the identified capital needs in the District?
  A: No. The needs assessment identified approximately $3 billion dollars in capital needs. This bond will raise $800 million, which will only cover a portion of the District’s most critical capital projects identified through the independent needs assessment of our schools.  This approach will allow us to 1) secure funding for our most critical needs, 2) execute effectively on a defined scope of work that is manageable, and 3) does not overburden our taxpayers.

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7. Q: Will each school receive a portion of the bond money?
  A: Yes.  Every school will receive funding to support instructional technology upgrades and technology infrastructure to support student learning.  $80 million of the bond proceeds will be allocated for technology needs, the remainder of the bond funds will be allocated to address the most critical facilities, health and safety needs.

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8. Q: Is bond money used for pay raises or other operating expenses?
  A: No. Bond funds cannot be used for salaries or operating costs such as utility bills, supplies, fuel or employee benefits. Bond funds can only be used for capital projects. Capital projects include renovations to existing facilities, technology and technology infrastructure, and equipment, such as HVAC units for existing buildings. Capital dollars allow us to invest in Safety, Music & Arts, Athletics, Renovations and Technology (SMART).

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9. Q: Will parents and stakeholders be able to identify the needs of each school and how the Bond will address specific deficiencies?
  A: Broward County Public Schools will engage parents, students and the community in various forums to educate them on both the District’s capital needs as identified through the Facilities Needs Assessment, and on how the District intends to use bond proceeds to address the most critical capital needs at each school. The District will maintain ongoing communication and targeted dialogue with parents, business partners and community members throughout the process.

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10. Q: How will the District ensure that the money from the bond will be spent appropriately?
  A: An independent Bond Oversight Committee is being formed to review and report on all Bond fund expenditures to ensure expenditures are made consistent with the purposes for which they were authorized. Establishing the Bond Oversight Committee will build and strengthen trust with our community and ensure integrity, transparency and accountability throughout the process.

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11. Q: Is the District issuing long-term debt for technology?
  A: No. The debt will be structured so that the bonds issued for technology will be retired (repaid) over the useful life of the computers and technology (3-5 years). The School District will use approximately 10% of the $800 million on technology ($80 million).

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12. Q: Now that the $800 million General Obligation Bond is approved, will the amount of debt overburden the District?
  A: No. Over the past five years, the District has retired $300 million in debt.  Moreover, the District will continue to retire and reduce debt on an ongoing basis. Relative to this General Obligation Bond initiative, the District will only issue bonds when projects are ready to be executed.  The bonds will be issued in several series over five years. The District continues to show discipline and success in retiring and reducing debt on an ongoing basis.

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13. Q: Will Homeowners experience a further increase in property taxes with the issuing of the General Obligation Bond and rising property values?
 

A: Although property values are increasing they remain below 2007 values.  The capital outlay tax rate for school capital needs is also lower than it was in 2007.

  • Even with the General Obligation Bond included, a homeowner with a home valued at $225,000 will pay approximately $127.00 less per year in capital outlay tax than in 2007.  This is 26% less than seven years ago.
  • Even with the General Obligation Bond, a condominium owner with a condo valued at $105,000 will pay approximately $72.00 less per year in capital outlay tax than it was in 2007.  This is 33% less than seven years ago

 
14. Q. Will small local businesses have a preference in securing contracts for work related to the Bond proceeds?
  A: Yes. The District is working to modify procurement procedures to establish a     preference for local small businesses. All contracts adhere to the District’s sound      procurement policies and practices. The Bond will add approximately 8,800 jobs          and $1.2 billion to our local economy. The District is committed to promoting   and developing business relationships while ensuring         small, minority-owned,           women-owned, and locally owned businesses have a fair chance and     transparent process to compete for these opportunities.  

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15. Q. Will the District be sharing information with municipalities on how the bond will impact their specific city?
  A: Yes. The district is providing municipalities with a list of proposed capital projects that would be funded through the Bond for the respective schools in their city.

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16. Q. How are individual school projects be prioritized within the five priority categories?
  A: The District, in collaboration with its independent needs assessment consultant, developed a fair and equitable prioritization methodology that focuses on the objective needs of all schools. This methodology utilizes industry best practices to address critical building systems required for the continuity of operations.  This includes critical life safety projects, such as fire alarm and sprinkler systems, single point of entry projects, and emergency lighting projects at all schools. The methodology then focuses on the building envelope system to address roofing problems, windows and exterior walls, and mechanical systems.

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17. Q. Where can I find the needs assessment reports for specific schools?
  A: The needs assessment reports are available online at the following link: http://browardschools.com/Web/Smart-Needs. The public can view the detailed needs assessment report for any school, as well as a summary report identifying the projects that will be funded through the Bond.  The reports are also available at sorted by innovation zone, municipality, and Board member district.  These reports outline the schools in those respective categories, and the proposed bond projects for those schools. 

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18. Q. When will the Bond projects begin?
  A: All of the proposed bond projects will begin within the next five years.  The summary of all proposed projects for each school is available at the following link: http://browardschools.com/Web/Smart-Needs The summary reports identify the year each project is proposed to begin.

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19. Q. Are there opportunities to attend meetings to learn more about the SMART Initiative?
 

A:  Yes. An online calendar has been developed to inform the public of upcoming events where community members can learn more about the SMART initiative. This calendar can be viewed at the following link:  http://www.broward.k12.fl.us/ospa/smart-calendar/.

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20. Q. The General Obligation Bond would provide capital funding. How will this benefit music, art and athletics? 
  A: The District maintains a strong commitment to music, arts and athletics. Funding from the General Obligation Bond (Bond) will allow the District to address the most critical school facility needs, including the renovation of identified art, music and athletic facilities.  The infusion of the Bond funding to the District’s capital budget will allow the District to reallocate existing funding for upgrading and replacing music, art and athletic equipment for schools that have programmatic needs.  Some examples include:
·    Replacement of music equipment
·    Sound and acoustic treatments
·    Studio/audio enhancements
·    Theater lighting
·    Music/art cabinets and secure storage
·    Kiln replacement
·    Athletic equipment
 
In addition, every school in the District will receive funding from the Bond that can be used to support school identified projects. To view the school needs assessment reports, please visit http://browardschools.com/Web/Smart-Needs.

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21. Q. The School Board recently adopted the District’s Educational Facilities Plan, which spans the next five years.  Will it change now that the Bond has passed?
 

A: The District’s current 5-year District Educational Facilities Plan (capital budget) will be amended to include the funding for critical facility needs projects, as well as the funding for new equipment to support music, arts and athletics programs.  

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22. Q. When will the $800 million General Obligation Bond expire (how many years?)
  A: The $800 million General Obligation Bond will be issued in five series.  Each series is for 25 years, therefore, the total $800 million will be paid back over 30 years.  The $800 million General Obligation Bond will retire in 2045.

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The SMART Speakers Bureau connects School Board Members, Superintendent Robert W. Runcie and District Leadership with community members interested in having a guest speaker during an upcoming event or meeting.  The speakers provide educational information about the $800 million General Obligation Bond.