California League of Bond Oversight Committees

$9 Billion School Bond Qualifies for California State Ballot for November 2016 
Sept. 22, 2015 | By The Allen Young |
EXCERPT: A ballot initiative for a $9 billion school construction bond has qualified for the Nov. 2016 ballot, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Monday.
   The initiative is pushed by a school facilities advocacy group that says it hopes to expand its coalition to construction groups across the state.
   “We’re hoping for more builders, subcontractors, and others involved in public education,” said David Walrath, a consultant from the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, a school facilities advocacy group.
   As it has in the past, the upcoming campaign will focus on expanding access to quality schools across the state, said Walrath.
   Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown opposed a $9 billion school bond under the argument that the law would add unnecessary debt. Brown has said he wishes to overhaul the school facility funding process into a system where the state would pay to construct and modernize schools in areas that could not raise funding through a local ballot initiative.
   Under the current school funding system, local entities must pledge 50 percent toward the cost of constructing a new school.
   The November initiative would include $3 billion for new construction, $3 billion for modernization, $1 billion for charter school construction and $2 billion for community colleges. It would ultimately cost the state $17.6 billion over 35 years including interest, the Secretary of State said. ...

California's $83 Billion of Bond Debt

March 6 2018 | By Rome Varghese |

EXCERPT:   ... California has about $83 billion in outstanding general obligation and lease revenue debt, down by $3 billion from 2016, according to state treasurer reports.
     Governor Jerry Brown's administration doesn't want to sell bonds before the proceeds are needed for different stages of construction, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the finance department. Otherwise, "you start racking up debt service costs for cash that's sitting idle," he said.
     Indeed, a large increase in outstanding bonds could pressure California's rating, which at AA- from S&P Global Ratings is lower than the company's average AA rating for states but is at the highest in almost two decades.
     "They could afford to issue a bit more debt than they're currently amortizing and maintain their current credit profile but not a significant amount," said Bernhard Fischer, senior fixed-income analyst at Principal Global Investors, which oversees about $8 billion in munis. Fischer said the state could probably sell about $1 billion more than it is now.
    Those chafing at the pace include the California School Boards Association, which wants quicker sales of $7 billion on bonds for construction projects at elementary and high schools and $2 billion for community colleges. Brown, who opposed the measure, had wanted tighter accountability requirements before selling the debt.
      So far about $433 million have been sold for the schools and about $17 million for community colleges, excluding what will be allotted from the proceeds of this week's deal. If the current pace continues, it would take more than a decade to sell the bonds, said Nancy Chaires Espinoza, a lobbyist for the association. ... 
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School Bond News

New bond considered for project San Joaquin 
Delta College wish list

September 19, 2015 | By Alex Breitler | 
EXCERPT: STOCKTON — Seven years ago, when San Joaquin Delta College came under intense scrutiny for mishandling a $250 million voter-approved bond, critics warned that Delta would never again be able to pass a bond measure in this community. That statement may be tested.
   Delta College officials have begun to discuss pursuing another bond, though a formal proposal to the voters won’t be made until 2018 at the earliest.
   The Measure L bond that property owners barely approved in 2004 was never expected to pay for all of the aging college’s needs, President Kathy Hart said Friday.
But the language presented to voters did contain a kind of “wish list” of projects. And when there wasn’t enough money for all of them, some who had supported the bond felt swindled.
   The process will be different next time, said Hart, who blamed the earlier confusion in part on the college’s “inexperience” dealing with bond measures. ...
   A San Joaquin County Grand Jury report later concluded that the college had squandered millions of taxpayer dollars. The California State Controller’s office followed with an equally critical audit. All but one of the seven trustees at the time either resigned or was booted out of office by voters, and many of the administrators who managed the bond have also moved on.
  “We were promised there would be a Lodi campus,” said Pat Patrick, president of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, which campaigned in support of the original bond. “Do I think Lodi would support another bond? I’ll just say if things continue to go the way they have been and the way they’re going today, I don’t know anyone in Lodi who would vote for a bond.”
   And despite the bond-funded improvements on the Stockton campus in recent years, many needs remain there, too. Faculty and staff say classrooms are old and drab and equipped with out-of-date technology. There are complaints about lighting, furniture, electrical, sewage and heating and air conditioning systems. ...
   David Renison, head of the San Joaquin County Taxpayers Association, also questioned trustees’ action in an email Friday.
   “Using public money to create a need for spending hearkens back to an approach used in 2008 when the grand jury found that the college wasted millions of dollars,” wrote Renison, who served as foreman of that particular grand jury.
   In terms of a new bond, he asked a number of questions: Will it be justified by Delta’s enrollment? Can Delta prove it has pressing needs vital to the college? Has Delta demonstrated that it can be trusted with the money that taxpayers have already given it?
   Eventually, it will be up to voters to decide.   
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Santa Monica School District's Conflict of Interest Investigation Expands to Three Board Members

Dec 23, 2017 | By Adam Elmahrek & Benjamin Oreskes 

EXCERPT:   Santa Monica school district's conflict of interest investigation has grown to include three of the board's seven members, a school district official confirmed Friday. ...
      Santa Monica-Malibu launched its probe after The Times revealed last month that Leon-Vazquez cast a series of votes spanning several years that included hundreds of thousands of dollars in contract approvals with her husband's clients, the financial advisory firm Keygent, LLC and TELACU Construction Management. ... 
     Prosecutors with the public integrity unit of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office have also opened a review. 
    Leon-Vazquez's husband Tony Vazquez - who is also a Santa Monica councilman and a candidate for a state Board of Equalization seat - was paid to open doors at school districts by using his political access to arrange meetings with high-level district executives, he testified in a sworn deposition obtained by The Times.
     This included a meeting he set up three years ago between a TELACU executive and then-Santa Monica-Malibu Superintendent Sandra Lyon, according to the deposition. He also said that his income from TELACU started at $1,000 per month but peaked at $8,000 a month around the same time he was asked to arrange the meeting between TELACU and Lyon, according to the deposition.
     Since the Times article was published, the school district's retired head of business Jan Maez acknowledged she also had a meeting with Vazquez in 2012 about financial advising and construction management involving "several other people" whose affiliations she could not recall, according to Pinsker. ... 
     The school district's review of potential conflicts of interest involving Mechur and Vazquez began after The Times asked the district about the business relationship. ...

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