DALLAS — The Plano Independent School District board decided to put a $490 million referendum on the May ballot for four new campuses on the east side of the suburban district 20 miles north of downtown Dallas.

Since 1997, voters within the district have overwhelmingly approved five bond elections for a total of $771.7 million. The $490 million bond package represents the largest ever for the district.

Officials used proceeds from a $285.7 million bond package passed in 2004 for “major facilities and technology needs” of the district. Last month, the district sold the last slice of that authorization — $58.3 million of unlimited-tax school building through a competitive sale won by UBS Securities with JPMorgan as co-manager. Yields on the bonds ranged from 2.25% with a 3.25% coupon in 2010 to 4.63% with a 4.5% coupon in 2033.

If approved, the May bond package would fund $66.1 million of technology upgrades for the district.

The majority of the proceeds would be used for four new schools in the eastern part of the district to address residential growth in that area, as well as renovations to 10 existing campuses. Completion of these new schools may signal the end of the district’s more than 40-year construction run.

In 1960, less than 3,700 people lived in Plano. Now the city’s population is nearing 270,000 and is more than double the 1990 Census tally of 129,000. The school district currently serves an enrollment of nearly 55,000 students in 68 schools.

Plano ISD carries underlying ratings of AA from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings and Aa1 from Moody’s Investors Service.

Analysts listed as credit strengths the district’s “deep, diversified economic and employment base, significantly above-average wealth and income levels, and good financial management practices, and sound reserves.”

The district’s current taxable-assessed valuation of $33.21 billion is up 20% from fiscal 2004.

Standard & Poor’s said the district’s high debt burden with significant capital needs and modest taxing flexibility preclude a higher rating. Plano ISD has about $880 million of debt outstanding.

Only two Lone Star state school districts carry underlying ratings higher than Plano’s AA. But the vast majority of debt sales from Texas schools, including the Plano issues, come to market with the triple-A enhancement provided by the state’s Permanent School Fund.

First Southwest Co. is the financial adviser to the district while Fulbright & Jaworski LLP serves as  bond counsel.

In addition to Plano, the school district draws students from the cities of Dallas, Richardson, Parker, Murphy, and Allen, and serves a total population of about 380,000.



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