DALLAS — The Northside Independent School District, the largest in the San Antonio area, is making plans to seek voter approval in May for $535 million of general obligation bonds to keep up with growth.
With the bonds expected to be sold in spring 2011, the district’s bond committee is anticipating interest cost of between 5.25% and 5.5% over 30 years. The district would maintain a minimum fund balance reserve of $5.5 million, or 4%. In 2009, it issued $263 million of debt, including $38 million of Build America Bonds.
The district’s voters have authorized more than $1.9 billion of debt since 1995, most recently passing a $693 million issue in 2007. Before that, they approved $439 million in 2004 and $495 million in 2001.
While Northside ISD has stable underlying ratings of AA from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings and Aa2 from Moody’s Investors Service, it can count on even better triple-A backing from the Texas Permanent School Fund, which is expected to be available in June after a hiatus of more than a year due to capacity limits. In December, the Internal Revenue Service allowed the PSF to double the capacity of its program to guarantee bonds for local school districts.
At a school board meeting Tuesday night, Northside trustees considered a recommendation from the bond advisory committee made up of community members. The panel called for two new middle schools and four new elementary schools, expansion and improvement to classrooms, and a variety of other upgrades and repairs.
From its 2004 authorization, the district added 11 schools, with 12 more funded by the 2007 issue. With enrollment of 92,000, the district has gained 26,000 students in just seven years.
The committee studied three scenarios and their potential impact on property tax rates. The potential issues were sized at $400 million, $500 million and $600 million. The school board could vary the proposed size of the middle option before making a decision to call for a vote.
Standard & Poor’s noted that about 26% of the district’s current debt is eligible for state support. Analysts consider the debt level as high at $5,086 per capita, or a moderately high 8% of market value.
Fitch analysts noted strong support among voters for the district’s previous bond proposals, with five consecutive approvals and no defeat since 1992.
“The district’s rising debt burden is due to very large growth-related capital needs, with voters consistently supporting the district’s bond programs,” Fitch said. “The favorable prospect for continued, albeit more moderate, tax base growth and the strong voter support for the bonds moderate the credit impact to the district’s debt profile.”