Colusa Unified to consider second school bond measure

Colusa Unified School District officials have until early August to decide whether to float a second general obligation school bond measure on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The school board last Tuesday said they may ask voters to approve a proposal similar to the $5.9 million bond voters approved in 2014 to fund additional school facility improvement projects.

Measure A was the first school bond passed in Colusa County. Voters in the Pierce Joint Unified School District passed Measure B, a $15 million school bond, and Williams voters passed Measure C, an $11 million dollar school bond, in 2016.

Lori Raineri, the district’s bond consultant, said Colusa’s school board was conservative in their assumptions when they put the measure on the ballot in 2014, due to the recession, but the econony got better.

Instead of selling bonds in two series in 2016 and 2017, the district only sold bonds once in 2016, resulting in more money for the district and less cost to the taxpayers.

“We were able to borrow everything in the first offering, and so we did it all in one series…” she said. “There is a fixed cost for selling bonds, but we did it once, not twice, so we were able to get more money into the coffers, so we got more money for projects.”

Raineri said because they issued more bonds faster, the school district received an additional $530,000 from the sell.

Measure A funded the remodel of the Egling Middle School gym; the replacement of portable classrooms; an upgrade to the FFA barn at the high school; the modernization of restrooms at Burchfield; an upgrade to electrical and HVAC systems, and more.
As a result of the conservative approach, Raineri said Colusa property owners are paying $37.30 per $100,000 of assessed value each year for 24 years, instead of the $47.97 per $100,000 each year for 31 years, as originally speculated.

If the school board considers another $5.9 million bond, they estimate property owners will pay approximately $49 more per $100,000 of assessed value each year.

“We have a wonderful record of fiscal stewardship that we are just celebrating right here and right now, and the board can feel good about what we are delivering to the voters in terms of the costs. That being said, we always knew that we needed more than what Measure A could fund.”

A second bond could be used for projects like an all-weather track, further upgrades to the schools, and technology, officials said.

As before, the school bond would require support (yes vote) from 55 percent of the voters.

Because Measure A received 63 percent support from the voters in 2014, Raineri did not recommend the school board go to the added expense of doing an advanced survey to measure the level of support within the community.

It is less expensive to just put the bond measure before the voters and find out on Election Day if it passes, she said.
Raineri recommended the school board put together another conservative plan, so that it could survive and be effective, even in a recession.

“It’s the tax base that repays the bonds,” she said. “If we assume that the tax base will be bigger than it actually is, then the rates will be higher than we expect. If the tax base gets bigger than we assume, then the rates are lower, which is what happended with Measure A.”

The school board is expected to make a decision in July, with opportunity for the public to comment. ■