The Coast News Group
Garrison Elementary School sinkholes
Storm drain replacement needed due to sinkholes at Garrison Elementary School. Courtesy photo/ Proposition H Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee's 2019 Annual Report

Oceanside school bonds part of decades-long modernization plan

OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Unified school board on July 21 approved issuing $25 million in new school-modernization bonds, as well as refinancing $32 million in existing bonds, saving taxpayers $47 million in debt service costs.

Both decisions are part of a longer-term series of capital improvement bond issuances — up to $195 million — which voters authorized through Proposition H in 2008.

Proposition H in turn built upon a previous $125 million bond measure, Proposition G, which voters authorized in 2000 in order to build three new campuses and overhaul another six. Voters approved both bond measures by a margin of 40% or more.

Proposition H meant to “assure local students access to comparable, modern classrooms, facilities and technology,” according to one of the school board’s July 22 approval resolutions.

Specifically, bond proceeds would go “to replace deteriorated plumbing/sewer/roofing systems; renovate student restrooms; improve school/playground safety/security; upgrade or replace outdated electrical, heating/ventilation systems, and aging portable classrooms.”

Improvements made so far include, for instance: numerous campus-wide modernizations; athletic field improvements and a new music building at Oceanside High; electrical and landscaping upgrades at El Camino High; a new playground at Ivey Ranch Elementary; a parking lot replacement at McAuliffe Elementary.

El Camino High School
Softball field upgrades planned for El Camino High School. Courtesy photo/Proposition H Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee’s 2019 Annual Report

The district plans to undertake additional improvements at, for instance, San Luis Rey Elementary and Jefferson Middle.

The new $25 million bonds comprise Series F, or the sixth installment, of issuances under Proposition H. They’ll have an interest rate not to exceed 8% and a term not to exceed 30 years, as determined closer to when they actually go to market.

The school board approved Series A, B, C, D and E in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2019 for amounts ranging from $15 million to $50 million, with interest rates ranging from 2% to 11% and terms of roughly 3 to 4 decades.

That leaves $15 million in authorized Proposition H bonds for a future Series G issuance.

“We recognize that we’re coming to the end of Prop. H, and we still have tremendous facility needs,” Deputy Superintendent Shannon Soto told the school board at their July 14 meeting.

The second set of bonds approved July 22, for $32 million, isn’t entirely new debt, but rather new debt to replace old debt on more favorable terms.

This second issuance is analogous to “refinancing a home mortgage,” Soto said. “With municipal bond rates near historical low rates, there’s the capacity to lower the bar in cost of the outstanding bonds, resulting in lower debt service payments and savings to taxpayers. The refinancing is estimated to generate approximately $47 million in total debt service savings.”