Keith Butler, Assistant Superintendent Business Services
Facing draconian cuts in state funding, the Coronado Unified School district plans to ask taxpayers to pass a bond measure this June to eliminate it’s $2.8 million dollar structural deficit, to maintain classroom and upgrade security and information technology.
The move was in response to the adoption of state funding formula that gives more money to districts with English language learners and economically disadvantage students. Coronado has few of either. As a result, there will not be enough money to “adequately maintain its facilities and academic programs,” Superintendent Jeffrey Felix said.
He first prosed the idea at his State of the District address in January. Last Thursday the Governing Board held a special budget workshop to discuss placing the measure on the June primary ballot.
It asks voters to approve “issuing up to $35,000,000 in bonds at legal rates, with maturities under five years, all bonds repaid by July 31, 2026, less than $15,000,000 outstanding at any time…”
The trustees will vote on the measure at its February 18 meeting.
The district currently has 13 million in general obligation bonds. Two years ago it refinanced its bonds, saving taxpayers $3 million in interest payments, Felix pointed out.
This new bond would also have additional features that the district believes will reassure taxpayers. The have a short-turn around and will be overseen by an independent committee.
“A traditional school bond is 25-30 years costing $2.50 to $3.00 or more to pay off each dollar received for projects,” explained Keith Butler, Assistant Superintendent Business Services.
“These bonds will be issued for current projects, paid off quickly, and cost less than $1.05 for each dollar received for projects,” he added.
All of the money raised will remain in Coronado, unlike property taxes where only eight cents of every dollar comes back to the community, Butler pointed out.
To ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely, the bond resolution calls for an independent citizen oversight committee, with roots in the community. Only two members will have a school connection – a parent of a child in a district school and another active in a school council or PTA.
The approach is novel; Coronado would be the first district to try it. “I’ve never seen this in any other school district before,” said Tim Carty of Piper Jaffray, who advised the district in structuring the bond proposal.
The district has also sought the council and support of the San Diego County Tax Payers Association.
Chris Kay the organizations vice-president attended and explained what role, if any, the organization would play.
He demurred when asked if the organization would support the measure. “This is new for us to,” he said, referring to the unique structuring and controls the district is proposing.
No one in the near overflow crowd spoke against the measure. Everyone expressed support and a few tendered some advice.
“The community has to look at it as a necessary need, that [the district] has made efforts to cut as many expenses as possible and that this is a last resort,” Realtor Scott Aurich said.
Indeed the district has few funding alternatives.
The Coronado Schools Foundation, even with the Harpst endowment, cannot bridge the gap. “It’s only about a million dollars a year,” Felix said.
The schools foundation raised $753 thousand last year. The $3.8 million Frances Harpst gave to the foundation is held in a “legacy account” that gives the schools $160 thousand a year.
Because the high economic status of the community the district qualifies for few educational grants. “Because of our military, we have received DOD [Department of Defense] grants, but this is about it,” Felix said.
More information can be found on the CUSD website.
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