The Columbia Union School District has refinanced one series of bonds issued in 2004 to pay for most of its multi-purpose building, resulting in a $3.1 million savings to taxpayers over the next 27 years.
The district issued two series of bonds in 2004 totaling $3.65 million after voters narrowly approved the measure. One series in the amount of $1.775 million was refinanced in 2012.
The amount refinanced this week was $1.875 million.
Superintendent Joseph Aldridge said the district did not benefit directly from the refinancing.
“It didn't do anything for us other than show we are good stewards of the public's money,” he said.
He said he did not know how much difference the average homeowner would see on a tax bill. At the time the bond issue was approved, it was estimated the increase would be $30 per $100,000 valuation.
He said the largest taxpayer in the Columbia school district, Blue Mountain Minerals, would see a savings of $100,000 over the term of the bond.
The district embarked on an ambitious renovation in 2004, largely paid for by state grants totaling $24 million, obtained due to the district being considered in financial hardship. Aldridge, who was not at the district at the time, said that designation would likely be based on enrollment, the need for new facilities and bonding capacity.
The state funds paid for a two-story, 12-classroom building, a four-classroom building, a two-classroom building, and two parking lots.
The bond issue went for the building that dominates the campus that includes a gym, a stage, bathrooms, a kitchen, two music rooms and an adjacent outdoor amphitheater.
Aldridge said the campus still includes a building built in 1935 that houses the kindergarten and a 1960 building for first graders along with some portables. No self-contained classes use the portables any longer, he said, and he is working to reconfigure classes to get all students in the newer buildings.
He said he doesn't foresee the need for more construction for the foreseeable future.
“Our facilities right now are some of the best in Tuolumne County,” he said. “I know how fortunate I am.”
Aldridge is in his first year as superintendent/principal at Columbia, which has an enrollment just shy of 500. Previously, Aldridge was the director of student services at Lakeport Unified School District, director of special education in Willits and principal, director of special education in Round Valley.
The district's credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, assigned just before the bond refinance, was AA-, which Aldridge said was an improvement that allowed the district to pay an interest rate of between 2.11 percent and 3.84 percent , compared to 5.39 percent and 6.01 percent when the bonds were issued in 2004.
Board President Jenny David said in a news release Thursday, “Interest rates are near all-time lows; as stewards of the community, we could not pass up the opportunity to lower taxes for our homeowners.”