DALLAS — Voters across Oklahoma went to the polls on Tuesday to support more than $470 million of school bonds requested by local districts. All five bond proposals on the ballot obtained the 60% majority needed to pass school bonds.
The largest request was $295 million by Tulsa County Independent School District No. 3. Voters in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow endorsed a 10-year plan to finance school improvements with proceeds from lease revenue bonds supported by annual tranches of general obligation bonds.
Other large bond proposals that were approved include a request for $109.8 million of GO bonds by Cleveland County Independent School District No. 29, which serves the Oklahoma City suburb of Norman, and $49.7 million of GO bonds by McClain County Independent School District No. 1.
In Oklahoma City, 54% of those voting approved an extension of a 1% sales tax that will generate $777 million for a variety of civic projects, including a new convention center and a downtown streetcar system. Mayor Mike Cornett said the revenues will be used on a pay-as-you go basis and will not support additional long-term debt.
The tax, which will go into effect April 1 for seven years and nine months, is a continuation of an expiring 15-month levy that financed improvements to the city-owned Ford Center and a separate practice facility for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association. With the extension, the city’s sales tax rate will remain at 3.875%.
Tulsa County ISD No. 3’s lease revenue bonds are to be issued by the Broken Arrow Economic Development Authority or some other local agency. The term on the lease revenue bonds will be 10 years or less.
The district is the sixth-largest in the state, with an enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Its GO debt is rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor’s.
Superintendent Gary Gerber said the successful bond election was “the most critical bond issue in the history of the school district.” He said the funds would be used for projects at every school in the district.
“We’ll now be able to get rid of the district’s 200 portables and add gymnasiums and build three schools, along with upgrading our bus fleet and student technology while increasing safety in a major way without raising taxes thanks to the lease-purchase revenue financial plan,” Gerber said.
Stephen Smith of Stephen L. Smith Corp., the Broken Arrow district’s financial adviser, said the lease revenue plan will allow the district to complete new schools and needed upgrades quickly rather than spreading the work over 10 years or more.
State law limits school district general obligation debt to 10% of assessed valuation.
Joseph Siano, superintendent of Cleveland County ISD No. 29, said the newly authorized $109.8 million of bonds will be issued over five years, and will not require an increase in the property tax rate.
The Norman district will complete the projects financed with the debt within three years, he said.