DALLAS With 80% of voters in support, Tulsa Public Schools won easy approval of a record $415 million bond proposal on March 3.
Passage came less than a month after voters in three suburban districts approved a combined $487 million for new schools.
The Tulsa Public Schools package is a 20-year plan for facilities updates and to help the inner city school district catch up to suburban districts in student access to technology, officials said. Bond proceeds are expected to provide $110 million, or almost 27% of the total, for technology.
Voters also approved $239.74 million for building construction and repairs, $19.8 million for school libraries, $17.025 million for transportation and $138.435 million for textbooks and other classroom materials.
Facilities funding will include $72.35 million for school additions that double as storm shelters. About 80 of the district’s 120 prefab or trailer classrooms will be replaced with permanent classrooms.
Elsewhere in Oklahoma on March 3, voters in the Seminole school district rejected a proposed $19.6 million bond issue that would have funded construction of a new high school. The new building would have replaced the city’s historic 85-year-old art deco high school but the bond measure received only 48% support, short of the 60% required for passage.
Other Oklahoma districts that won voter approval of smaller bond issues included Miami, Grove, Henryetta, and Okmulgee.
After a $46 million bond sale in December the Tulsa schools still have $48 million in authorized but unissued bonds from the 2010 election. Officials plan to issue the remaining authorized debt in the near-term, using $29 million to retire outstanding Qualified Zone Academy Bonds.
With about $238 million of general obligation debt outstanding, the Tulsa schools carry ratings of Aa2 from Moody’s Investors Service and AA from Standard & Poor’s. While the Moody’s outlook is stable, S&P raised its to positive, signaling a potential upgrade.
“The district's financial performance has improved significantly, in our view, following implementation of a $16 million expenditures reduction plan in fiscal 2011,” analyst Sarah Smaardyk noted.
The district serves Tulsa and surrounding area in Creek, Osage and Wagoner Counties. The tax base is valued at $20.6 billion, with an increase of $2.3 billion or 2% in 2015, according to Moody’s. Over five years, the district’s assessed value has grown at an annual rate of 0.8%.