509-J decides to split construction bonds


Plan would avoid delaying projects

Because a U.S.Department of Agriculture loan agreement for the tribal portion of the Warm Springs K-8 school is still pending, the School District 509-J Board has decided to split the bonds so that construction on the Madras area projects won’t be delayed.

The Confederated Tribes is waiting for the USDA’s final approval of a $10.7 million loan to pay its half of the Warm Springs K-8 school construction cost.

Superintendent Rick Molitor noted that construction projects could be delayed by six to eight months if the district waited until funding was in place for both the Warm Springs school and the Madras area projects (performing arts/athletic complex, stadium, and school renovations).

Construction would be delayed because the school district can't release all of the bonds for the K-8 school until the tribes' loan is approved. Until the bonds are released, there is no money to pay contractors. The district has the option of splitting the amounts and releasing just $15.6 million in bonds for the Madras-area construction. This would allow Madras projects to be completed on schedule, but a split will cost the district an extra $50,000.

“We need to make a determination. We can refinance the old bonds and issue the in-town bonds. It will cost us $50,000 to split the bonds, but if we waited it could cost us more,” Molitor said, referring to bond rates.

He said a letter from USDA indicated that the Warm Springs School was still a on the high priority list for funding, and will just take more time to process.

Of the $24.76 million in general obligation bonds, the board voted to issue $15.6 million for the in-town projects, and refinance the rest of the bonds to get a better rate. May 23 was the estimated closing date on the bonds.

Molitor reported that three teams from 509-J had completed a “whirlwind tour” of school districts using a “proficiency-based” learning system in Lindsay and Los Angeles, Calif., and Anchorage, Alaska. The tours were facilitated by education consultant Richard DeLorenzo.

“There is a lot we could be doing to get to the level we saw on the site visits,” Molitor said, adding, “There’s a lot of buzz and excitement about it. My mind is still spinning.”

He suggested the three teams hold a work session to compare notes and discuss the next steps for the 509-J district.

Under personnel, Manda Currier was hired to teach special education at Buff Intermediate School, and Rhea Cardwell was hired as the head volleyball coach for Madras High School. The resignation of Buff Intermediate third grade teacher Anna Schmitt was accepted.