DALLAS — Two Texas school districts are joining others planning to put bond packages before voters next month, although one official isn’t sure when the new debt, if approved, might get to market.
Last month, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott suspended the state’s triple-A rated bond guarantee program administered through the Permanent School Fund until at least September, citing the declining value of the fund “to the point that outstanding guarantees exceed capacity under the federal regulations.”
Trustees of the Nederland Independent School District recently called for a $120.3 million bond election on May 9 for three new elementary schools, one middle school, upgrades to existing campuses, and renovations to the district’s stadium.
The Gulf Coast district in the southeast corner of the state currently has seven schools that are each at least 38 years old, including one elementary school that was built in 1939.
Business manager Melissa Wong said the district hasn’t had a bond election since 1997 and officials aren’t sure voters will approve next month’s referendum.
“Right now it’s hard to say because of the economic times we’re in,” she said. “We’ve formed a committee to inform the public, but they’re just getting started. We’ve also had some open meetings but there hasn’t been a big turnout. So it’s been hard for us to judge the community’s feelings toward the bond.”
Wong added that the community is still grappling with the aftereffects from both Hurricane Rita, which hit the area in September 2005, and Hurricane Ike, which hit the Texas coast last September. The storms were some of the most intense and most destructive in recorded history and flooded much of the Gulf Coast.
Wong said going to market without the PSF enhancement “may not be as easy as we’d like.”
“We may have to split it out and not sell it all at once,” she said. “We’ll really be in wait-and-see mode if the bonds pass and we’re ready to go this summer.”
RBC Capital Markets is the financial adviser to the district, which has a total enrollment of about 5,000 students. It carries underlying ratings of A from Standard & Poor’s and A2 from Moody’s Investors Service.
A little further inland, the College Station Independent School District plans to put a $144.2 million bond package before voters May 9.
Officials expect to issue the bonds, if approved, in three equal tranches of about $48.07 million over the next three years.
Proceeds would fund a new elementary school, the first phase of a second high school, acquisition of buses, and the construction of a new transportation center, among other projects.
College Station ISD carries underlying ratings of AA-minus from Standard & Poor’s and A1 from Moody’s. Analysts said the assessed-valuation of the district, which projects a total enrollment of about 10,131 for the coming school year, increased by more than 50% through the end of fiscal 2008 to about $4.9 billion.
College Station is also home to Texas A&M University and its more than 48,000 students.