Poway Unified board members defend bond vote at forum
By Steve Dreyer
The two Poway Unified School District board members running for re-election on Wednesday night defended their 2011 votes to proceed with the use of capital appreciation bonds to complete paying for school campus improvements.
“We didn’t have a lot of options,” Linda Vanderveen told about 60 people attending a candidate forum at Painted Rock Elementary School.
“This was the best possible way to fund the building program,” added Andy Patapow.
In 2011 the district proceeded with the sale of $179 million in capital appreciation bonds that were used to pay off a bridge loan taken out by the district to complete the renovation of 24 campuses ahead of schedule. No payments will be made until after bonds authorized under Proposition U are paid off and the bonds cannot be refinanced. As a result, borrowing the money will ultimately cost the district about $1 billion over the next 40 years.
Patapow said that extending bond payments 20 years beyond the original 20 years approved under 2008’s Proposition C was consistent with what the board thought voters wanted. A public opinion poll conducted prior to the election showed resistance to the district increasing the current school tax of $55 per $100,000 of property valuation, but support for making the payments for a longer period of time. Keeping the rate at $55, he said, was a “voter mandate.”
Vanderveen said that the district was caught in a “perfect storm” of bond market instability, resulting in the bonds being sold at over 7 percent interest. The board had little choice, she said, because it faced a large payment due on the bridge loan.
The two incumbents stressed that the ambitious building program resulted in what Patapow called “a level field” where the district’s older schools are now up to standard with the newer schools in the district’s west side.
Patapow, a retired teacher and school administrator, has served on the PUSD board for 16 years. Vanderveen, a retired nurse, has been on the board for 14 years. The two Poway residents are seeking new four-year terms. They are being challenged by Kimberley Beatty, an attorney, Sabre Springs resident and Palomar PTA Council legislative advocate.
Beatty told the audience that there may be a way out of the CAB situation, but it would require voter approval of new property taxes.
She said that she has been working with Santa Fe Valley financial expert Vance Schroeder on options to getting beyond the CAB “no call” provision. Stressing that “there are a lot of moving parts” to the strategy, it could possibly involve the district tendering a bond offer to pay off the CABs several years ahead of schedule. Very preliminary estimates peg the amount of tax increase needed at about $38 per $100 of assessed valuation she said.
The $55 rate is paid by about 60 percent of the PUSD’s property owners, those not living within Mello-Roos assessment districts. Most of those paying on the Prop. U and Prop. C bonds live in Poway, Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos.
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