Sonora, S’ville set for projects

Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat

Summerville High School cashed in last week on $4.1 million from Measure H, the $8 million bond measure voters passed in November.

The bond sale will cost school district taxpayers $11.2 million by the time they're paid off in 2042. All bonds sold were capital appreciation bonds, a type that defers repayment further into the future but is more expensive because of compounding interest.

Hundreds of California school districts and community college districts have used capital appreciation bonds to keep current property taxes low in the midst of a sour economy. In some cases, they will cost 10 times their original value over the course of 40 years.

However, most of Summerville's bonds were "convertible" capital appreciation bonds, meaning interest will come due within a shorter time. The long-term cost of Summerville's bond sale is comparable to traditional school bonds.

Summerville Union High School District Superintendent John Keiter said the school won't sell its remaining bonds for another two years or so, allowing the district it to spend its first - and unexpected - windfall. The bond measure passed by only two votes.

Summerville Union High School District's Board of Education decided earlier this year on priorities for bond measure money. It put athletic facilities first, with technology updates as a close second.

The first phase of Measure H projects will focus on Summerville's athletic complex, including its football field, track, bleachers, lights and press box.

Summer 2014 will see the start of work on the football field, which will have artificial turf installed. If next spring is as warm as this year's, it could start earlier, Keiter said.

Meanwhile, Sonora Union High School District's Board of Trustees is meeting April 16 to review possible projects for its own $23 million bond and discuss the scope of the work. Its first bond sale will total $8 million, said Superintendent Mike McCoy.

The school has identified several projects, including renovation of the humanities building, cafeteria and Depression-era Centennial Hall. Like Summerville, Sonora High will get a long-awaited all-weather track.

"We're hopeful that we will begin breaking ground for the approved projects in spring 2014," McCoy said.

The district has "taken a stance" against capital appreciation bonds for their costliness, he said.

The Union Democrat
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