DALLAS — Rising enrollment resulting from rapid growth in the northern suburbs of Oklahoma City is the primary driver in the request by the Oklahoma County Independent School District No. 6 for $142.1 million of general obligation bonds.
Voters in the district that serves the Deer Creek area will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide on $139 million of bonds for school construction and expansions, and $3.1 million for new transportation equipment and facilities.
Jacob Mays, co-chair of the citizen’s committee that helped develop the district’s project list, said the district’s enrollment has more than doubled over the past 10 years.
“In 1999, the entire district enrollment, from kindergarten to high school, was about 1,500 students,” Mays said. “Within a few years, we will have 1,500 students in our high school.
“That’s why the vast majority of the projects financed by the bond issue are classrooms and buildings,” he said. “There’s a new technology aspect too, but that’s pretty small.”
According to Thomson Reuters, the school district has never requested a rating for its debt from any rating agency.
District trustees said approval of the bonds would not result in an increase in the 35 mills of the property tax dedicated to debt service. The bonds will be sold in several series over the next six to eight years to avoid increases in the interest and sinking portion of the property tax, which has held steady for 20 years.
School bond propositions in Oklahoma must be approved by 60% of those voting. Mays said he believes voters in the district will support the bond request, which is the largest in the district’s history.
“We’ve done some polling, and it looks like about 75% of the voters are in favor of the bonds,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out to the voters and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
Planning for the bond issue began in November 2008, when projections showing an enrollment of more than 2,000 students at the district’s sole high school were outlined to school officials and district trustees.
Four long-range planning committees, focusing on facilities, curriculum, technology, and safety were established to determine the district’s needs for the next 10 years.
The biggest single project to be financed by the GO bonds is the district’s second middle school. The new school’s $40 million from this authorization would be combined with $10.5 million from an earlier bond issue.
Mays said construction of the middle school would be financed through a lease-purchase agreement with a local bank.
“That way we can get started before we sell all the bonds,” he said.
In addition to the new middle school, bond proceeds are earmarked for construction of the district’s fifth elementary school, a new performing arts and athletic center at Deer Creek High School, and the addition of 50 classrooms, 10 sciences labs, and four computer labs at various schools.