LCUSD Will Issue Bonds Early to Save Money

La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board members decided Tuesday night to issue the next set of Measure LCF bonds next spring rather than at a later date to take advantage of lower construction costs and interest rates.
Measure LCF is a $149 million general obligation bond passed by La Cañada Flintridge taxpayers in November 2017 to pay for capital projects.
Board member Dan Jeffries said with the early issuance of the bonds, the LCUSD would be able to accelerate the pace and scope of work so that in 2021 it would be a calendar year ahead of schedule for projects at La Cañada High School and district elementary schools.
Jeffries said that would not only accomplish the district’s goals but help the district save more money thanks to lower costs and interest.
“All in all, it seems like an absolute win-win,” Jeffries said.
According to a worksheet distributed at the meeting, projects in the second bond series include a new pool and safety and security upgrades at LCHS, modernization at Palm Crest Elementary School and new construction at Paradise Canyon Elementary.
The decision comes on the heels of an Oct. 29 board meeting where Adam Bauer, president of the municipal advisory firm Fieldman, Rolapp and Associates, recommended issuing a second series of bonds, possibly in spring 2020, for $30 million. Documents presented by Bauer showed the district would see a 4.49% increase in assessed home values in 2020. In 2019, the assessed value was to be more than $7.5 billion, while the 2020 figure is predicted to exceed $7.8 billion, the documents showed — a development that would help increase the district’s purchasing power.
Harold Pierre, program manager for the LCF bond project, said at Tuesday’s meeting that a spring 2020 bond issuance would not change the time needed to complete individual projects because everything has to go through a design process.
“What it does do is if we finish [projects] sooner, we start construction sooner,” Pierre said.
He also said if the bonds were to be issued in spring 2020, in 2026 a cash flow accumulated amount deficit — which would be paid for because of program continuity — would be reduced from approximately $7.3 million to $5.8 million.
Pierre said the cash flow accumulated amount projected for 2020 was more than $30 million in positive cash flow, which would gain interest and likely help with the cash flow deficit.

VAPING PRESENTATION

LCHS security chief Tanya Wilson, county Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Matejka and LCUSD nurse Chris Henry gave presentations about vaping at the high school.
Wilson’s and Matejka’s presentations were similar to one they made on Oct. 17 at an LCHS PTSA meeting, with updated statistics from governmental agencies.
In Los Angeles County, there have been 31 pulmonary injuries and one death as of Thursday, Nov. 14, according to the county Department of Public Health.
As of last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there have been 42 deaths and 2,172 injuries nationwide due to vaping.
A handout shared at the meeting stated the U.S. surgeon general has named vaping a youth epidemic, while e-cigarette use by high school students rose 78% between 2017 and 2018. Additionally, nearly 2 in 3 cases reported in L.A. County involve people ages 25 and younger, and among county high school students 1 in 10 are current e-cigarette users.
“We see this as a state of emergency,” said LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette. “We’re very concerned about it affecting our kids.”
Wilson said kids have vaped in a restroom on the third floor of the high school near lockers, as well as in cars.
She said youths used to be caught vaping once or twice a day, but the incidence has slowed to about one a week. She said she was worried the number could increase because youths think the problem has been solved since Vitamin E acetate has been identified as a chemical of concern — that is, those who vape might move on to devices that don’t involve that element.
Wilson, who said she busted a kid for having a vaping device on Monday, added kids were letting her know about the problem through the school’s tip line.
A student representative asked from the dais how to report someone vaping.
“Tell anyone in the office,” Wilson said. “Tell me … we’ll act on that right away.”

SUBSTITUTE PER DIEM PAY RATE INCREASED

Board members voted to raise the per diem rate paid to substitute teachers from $142 to $150, effective Jan. 1.
The increase makes the LCUSD more competitive with other school systems such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, which pays $202.60, and the Glendale Unified School District, which pays $165. San Marino pays $144 and Pasadena pays $145, according to LCUSD figures. Flintridge Prep pays $120, while Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and St. Francis are covered internally with period-by-period coverage.
“I’m in favor of this,” said board member Joe Radabaugh.

FIRST INTERIM BUDGET ANALYSIS

The board also approved a first reading of the first interim financial report, which showed the district will meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year and the two subsequent fiscal years.
But Mark Evans, associate superintendent of business and administrative services, said in a district document there would be a sharp decline in revenues in the 2021-22 fiscal year because the current parcel tax is scheduled to expire then. The revenues and like expenditures of $2.5 million were removed from that budget year, he said.
The local revenue amount is expected to decline from more than $8.4 million in 2020-21 to more than $5.7 million in 2021-22.
Total revenues are forecast to drop from more than $49.4 million in 2020-21 to more than $47.8 million the next year.
Additionally, district reserves will also decrease from about $1.8 million in 2020-21 to about $1.7 million the following year.
The district is expected to seek a parcel tax renewal on the March 2020 ballot. The tax finances programs, in contrast to Measure LCF, which funds facilities.
The estimated cost to the district for a parcel tax election is about $120,000. Consultants recommend that the tax be offered at the current rate of $450 per parcel, with adjustments for the annual consumer price index to offset inflation. The vote would extend a tax that was passed in 2014 and is set to expire in June 2021.
“If we lose the parcel tax, we’ll have to lose comparable staffing,” Evans said.
Evans said the 2019-20 budget was “relatively consistent” with the interim report. The budget showed total revenues at more than $48.3 million while the interim report showed figures at $48.8 million. Expenditures in the budget were listed at more than $49 million while the report listed the numbers at more than $50.4 million. Reserves were initially listed at more than $1.7 million in the budget numbers and the first interim report listed them at more than $1.7 million.

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