Gilbert Public Schools board approves next round of bond sales

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The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board approved April 22 a third round of bond sales from the voter-approved package in 2015.

The 5-0 vote authorizes the district to sell $27.66 million in bonds that will be used to update buildings and buy technology.

This round comes earlier than the district originally anticipated, but Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz said selling the bonds was necessary as the district’s capital projects needs have accelerated.

On the same day as the board meeting, Patterson Elementary School experienced a water-main break that forced the school to shuttle students to Gilbert High School for the day. The break was repaired, and students were expected to return to their campus April 23.

Betz said the incident, as well as the unexpected loss of a transformer last fall at Ashland Ranch Elementary School, pointed to unforeseen needs that have brought the district to the conclusion it must sell the bonds earlier than anticipated.

“We’re finding our needs are greater, and the need is earlier than expected,” Betz said.

‘Great position’

Bill Davis from the district’s bond adviser, PiperJaffray, said the district is in a favorable position to sell bonds now because of its bond rating—Aa3 by Moody’s and AA- by Standard & Poor’s—and the low interest rates. Davis said he believes the district can sell the bonds at less than a 2.5% interest rate.

He added with the assessed valuations on property in the district continuing to climb, estimates show the tax rate on the debt service will actually go down with this bond sale.

“The district is in a great position right now,” Davis told the board.

Betz said the cost savings to taxpayers was another reason the district wants to have a round of bond sales now.

“The market is hot for bonds now, especially of the quality of Gilbert Public Schools,” she said. “And again that helps our taxpayers because the interest rate is low.”

Upcoming projects

Board member Lori Wood asked what would happen if the district held off on this round of sales. Betz answered the district has more than $6 million in capital projects scheduled for this summer but fewer than $3 million remaining from its last round of bond sales. Thus, some projects would have to be put on hold.

The district does anticipate receiving an additional $1.9 million in District Additional Assistance from the state over what it received last year. However, some of that money will be transferred into the maintenance and operations budget to help meet pay raise promises to district employees.

Furthermore, board President Reed Carr said even keeping the money in the capital budget would not cover the present needs.

The district had previous bond sales from the 2015 election’s $98 million package in 2016 and 2018. The district will still have $8 million in bonds to sell after this year. Those bonds are anticipated to be sold in 2021 and are earmarked for technology to meet the 2015 election pamphlet’s promises.

Other actions

• The board approved a 25-cent hike to the cost of Nutritional Services’ meals sold in district schools starting next school year. Rising operational and labor costs were given as reasons for the increase. The state’s minimum wage requirement went up to $11 per hour in January and is scheduled to increase to $12 per hour in 2020. Elementary school students will pay $1.75 for breakfasts and $2.90 for lunches. Junior high and high school students will play $2.25 for breakfasts and $3.40 for lunches.

• Joseph Lopat will be Canyon Rim Elementary School’s principal for the 2019-20 school year.

• The board approved a revised teacher evaluation instrument, one the district said will be more transparent for teachers.

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Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.
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