As Putnam County students return to class, district plans to repair and rebuild aging schools

Putnam County students return to class Wednesday as the school district is undergoing a major renovation plan to repair and rebuild aging schools.

Parents and other voters in Putnam County will soon be asked to sign a bond package totaling $300 million.

That’s a lot of money, but Putnam County School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Surrency said it was necessary because schools in the county are very old. In fact, according to the district, Putnam County’s classrooms are among the oldest in the state of Florida.

Surrency told News4JAX that Putnam County students deserved better.

“We think our kids should have the things kids have in St. Johns County and Duval County in all of our neighboring counties,” Surrency said. “So it’s really a big lift. That’s probably our biggest challenge right now.

In November, voters in Putnam County will face this challenge head-on at the polls. If they accept the plan, the district would sell bonds in increments as needed. They would total $300 million and be repaid over 30 years.

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Surrency said state money goes to building new high schools, but that bond money would build new elementary schools.

LEARN MORE: Putnam County School District Revitalization Plan

In the first year of the bonds taking effect, according to the district, the average homeowner would have an extra $60.50 in the first year added to their tax bill. Of course, this is an estimate, and this figure would change over the years.

News4JAX asked Surrency what the next decision would be if voters didn’t sign it.

“If they decide they don’t want it, that’s always something we have to do and our kids will always be in aging schools,” Surrency said. “I think in the long run it won’t be as heavy a burden as some people think.”

LOOK: Putnam County Superintendent’s Welcome Message

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Surrency said he understands the challenge, but points to rising district graduation rates, greater growth for the county as a whole and the need to stay ahead.

The district said there will be a public hearing on the proposed link. It is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 25 at the old Miller Middle School auditorium on South Prospect Street in Crescent City.

Questions and answers on the bond program

Here are some email Q&As that News4JAX anchor and reporter Ashley Harding had with Rhonda Odom, who is in charge of finances for the Putnam County School District.

Question: “How does it work exactly?” If it is split over 30 years, how does it work?

Answer: “Municipal bonds are bonds that allow a local government to raise funds for projects not funded elsewhere. They are called general obligation bonds because a specific income-generating asset does not back them. Instead, they are backed by the full confidence and credit of the issuer. In other words, they are supported by the district’s ability to raise taxes through voted miles in the form of levied property taxes. Once we have voter approval to sell bonds, we will sell in increments as needed (for example, we may initially sell $50 million of bonds to start building a school; as more funds are needed , we will sell additional bonds.Payments will vary depending on the amount of bonds outstanding, the interest rates on those bonds, and the property tax base for that year.The thought process involves not sell all $300 million at once, forcing our owners to pay the maximum annual payments of the It will be treated more like a home equity line of credit where we will “draw” funds as needed (sold bonds) for the next phase of the plan. The bonds will be repaid over a period of 30 years; each sale of bonds will start a 30-year period for this series of bonds. Like a real estate mortgage, general obligation bonds include a principal and an interest component. Each time the district sells a series of GOB bonds, an interest rate is determined at the time of the sale and is applied to that bo and the principal repayments of that issue for that 30-year term. State laws dictate that money from the debt levy can only be used to make debt payments and the property tax mileage rate is calculated each year to only yield enough to provide the amount needed to match the required payments.

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Question: “Do I understand correctly that the $300 million bail would fund new elementary schools, while state money would fund high schools?”

Answer: “Yes, that is correct. We have already applied to the state for special facilities funds (which are allocated annually through the legislative process) to build Crescent City Junior/Senior High School. We cleared the first hurdle in this process when the team assembled by the Florida Department of Education that visited CCJSHS determined that the school met the criteria to be a critical-needs project. This project is expected to be funded in the 2023 legislative session for construction to begin in the summer of 2023. The district is to commit one mill of capital funds per year of the project and the state budget will fund the remainder. . Upon completion of the CCJSHS, the district will apply for funds for special facilities for the next middle school/high school.

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Question: “I’ve seen the monetary breakdown online, but overall, what kind of annual dollar amount will that look like for homeowners?”

Answer: “Of course, any answer I give you is an estimate based on several factors such as the timing of the bond sales and the amount of each sale, the interest rate we receive on each bond sale, the property tax base each year, etc. the median tax value of property in Putnam County is $109,500 If we sell $50 million of bonds in the first year at an interest rate Assumed 4.4%, the amount owed by an owner of a median value home for the bond drawdown is estimated to be $60.50 in year one, the lowest year. At the peak, when all $300 million of bonds have been sold, that same taxpayer will have to pay an annual tax bill for the debt of $291.80 (equivalent to $24.32 per month) The average annual amount paid by this same taxpayer during the term of the obligation is $183.96 (i.e. $15.33 per month). We can do this same analysis on any taxable property value. As property values ​​increase in Putnam County, as more residents arrive and buy or build property, our tax base increases with more homeowners sharing the cost of the bond, which will spread the cost among more of people and reduce the debt mileage rate. service. As we are not permitted to take a mile that will yield more than the required annual debt service, the increased addition of new land values ​​would reduce the debt of existing owners.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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