Resolution authorizing sale of bonds to be considered by Lindbergh school board

Sale of $10 million in bonds tentatively planned March 10

By MIKE ANTHONY

A resolution authorizing the sale of $10 million in general-obligation bonds to fund Proposition R 2008 projects was scheduled to be considered earlier this week by the Lindbergh Board of Education.

The school board was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

District voters in November approved Prop R 2008, a $31 million bond issue.

The measure received 20,378 “yes” votes — 72.4 percent — and 7,770 “no” votes — 27.6 percent. A four-sevenths majority was needed to approve the measure, which will not increase Lindbergh’s debt-service tax rate, but extend the current rate of 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation an additional five years.

The Board of Education had placed the measure on the ballot with the goal of providing a long-term solution to space concerns at Sperreng Middle School. More than 1,300 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are jammed into the middle school that was designed to accommodate 800 pupils when it opened in 1970.

While Sperreng will remain a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, funds from Prop R 2008 will be used to convert Truman Elementary School to a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, add onto Crestwood and Long elementary schools, convert Concord School to an elementary school and construct a new Early Childhood Education building next to the Administration Building, 4900 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

The resolution to be considered Tuesday night calls for the sale of $10 million in bonds, according to Pat Lanane, assistant superintendent for finance and the district’s chief financial officer.

“This is the first batch of the Prop R 2008 (bonds),” Lanane said. “We’re going to do $10 million. One of the reasons … to break it up is $10 million is bank qualified, which means banks can bid on them. If you go higher than that, they can’t, and we think that will create more competition that way. And that’s enough money to get us started …”

Given current economic conditions, Lanane said, “I do believe that municipal bonds, the rates on those will get better for schools districts … I think in the long term, those will become a bit of a safe haven and so we anticipate that we might possibly do even better later next year. You can only do it once in a calendar year … There’s a lot of people holding money out there. Whether they’re putting it in their mattress or burying it in their back yard, they’re holding onto money and I think eventually they’re going to say: ‘You know, here are bonds, they’re highly rated. They’ve got the full faith and credit of a very strong community behind it. They’re state tax-exempt. You know what, that’s where I’m going to put my money for awhile.’

“All I can say is that if we’re wrong, it won’t be for lack of planning because we really have discussed this and strategized with our financial experts as to well, what do we think is the best route to go? And we definitely think having more competition is a plus, he said, noting when the district last year refunded bonds that had been sold in 1998, a record 17 bids were submitted.

That won’t be the case this time, though, Lanane said.

“They have warned me that we won’t see that many this time,” he said. “The markets are somewhat diminished in terms of the numbers of players out there and people wanting to jump in and buy anything. And these are not people, these are companies. The people buy the bonds from the companies. We sell to banks, the A.G. Edwards of the world, huge investment consortiums and then they turn around and sell those bonds to (people) who want to buy school bonds …”

The bond sale is tentatively scheduled to occur March 10, but the sale date could change depending on the outcome of the stimulus package being considered by Congress and market conditions.

“We’re watching this stimulus package. The stimulus package … has several things in it that could help or hurt,” Lanane said. “One thing it does is it raises the amount from $10 million to $20 million that banks can buy. Now I don’t know if that’s going to make it through or not. Probably that may not change our thinking, but we just want to know it. The other thing is there are some provisions for interest-free or interest-diminished to the district bonds we could issue. And so that just means taxpayers would pay less interest on them. That would be wonderful. And if we can do that, we’re certainly going to go for that. We’ve made some inquiries and so we’re waiting to see what finally comes out,”

“… We are watching the market and we are going to try to time the market within what limits we have to get the best deal,” he said.