Anatomy of a bad bond – the cost is too high - The Explorer: Editorials

Anatomy of a bad bond – the cost is too high

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Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 3:00 am

The Oracle School District is floating a $13 million bond request to its taxpayers in November (or October, if you have an early ballot) that carries a debt service of over $6.7 million, or over 51 percent, of the base bond. Total cost : $19.6 million.

At a local town hall meeting sponsored by Pinal County Citizens for Excellence in Government, a local resident who was an architect and consultant and involved with school districts in another state reviewed the bond proposal for local residents.

The consultant stated that a 15 percent “professional fee” for the bond consultant was overly generous. Professional fees of 15 percent are not necessary for projects like building a baseball field or improving irrigation.

Further, the bond proposed spending $600,000 on four new buses, upon which the bond consultant would collect a $90,000 commission. Why can’t the district just issue a request for proposal and save the $90,000 for the classroom?

Additionally, the Auditor General, in its 2011 performance audit of OSD, found that the district did not conduct maintenance on its buses from February 2009 to December 2010. The district agreed with the AG’s finding.

Where is the accountability at the district level? Approving the bond is rewarding bad behavior.

And the bond list goes on:

• Install grass and sprinklers on large ball field: $350,000

• Relandscape in front of gym: $400,000

• Remodel administration office: $625,000

• Pave and paint transportation parking lot: $500,000

• Expand parking lot: $580,000

• Community school building “J”: $300,000

• Construct warehouse: $350,000

Demolish Bateman Bldg/Construct new building (computer lab): $1.12 million

Aside from the computer lab, there are no new classrooms for the students. Aside from the computer lab, the next most expensive item on the list appears to be the remodeling of the administrative office.

Todd Kissick, superintendent of OSD, in a district handout, mentioned that bonds are a statutorily approved method of obtaining funds for capital items and mentioned the Amphitheater School District bond of $150 million three years ago. This was an unfortunate comparison.

OSD has one school while ASD has 21 schools. OSD’s bond cost per student is projected at $46,667; ASD’s bond cost per student was approximately $10,227, using a student body of 14,596.

How can OSD’s bond cost per student be 4.5 times greater than ASD’s bond cost per student? The Oro Valley Basis School of 32,000 square feet, housing 450 students, was built for $5.6 million, or $12,444 per student; yet OSD’s bond cost per student is 3.7 times higher than Basis, a quality school.

Kissick’s handout stated, ”Even with the bond the Oracle School taxes will be among the lowest in the area and state.” The information pamphlet for the Special Election stated that the estimated annual cost to an owner of $100,000 Full Cash Value house would be $45.40. 

My current line item property tax for OSD is $654.64. OSD’s formula will raise my line item property tax to approximately $836, or a 28 percent increase. Even cities, towns and counties are restricted to a 2-percent increase annually.

It is obvious that this bond proposal was not well thought out. A district cited by the AG for poor performance and bad behavior should not be rewarded with an extravagant bond

A “no” vote is in order.

Additionally, if OSD’s bond proposal is so expensive on a per student and per district basis, taxpayers should be looking for efficiencies through district consolidation. Representative John Fillmore’s committee is currently doing just that.

Opposing viewpoints can be emailed to editor@explorernews.com.

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