School district's goal is to stagger bonds so taxpayers don't see steep increase

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District is considering going out for another bond, which would pay for projects like a future school and upgrades to existing schools.

During the Nov. 5 school board meeting, Son Le Hughes, chief financial officer for the school district, shared the district's remaining debt relating to prior General Obligation (GO) bonds and the district's bond capacity of about $678 million — the maximum amount of money the school district can request from taxpayers in the form of a GO bond, which must be approved by voters.

The WL-WV School District has a remaining debt of about $184.8 million from bonds passed in 2003, 2009 and 2015.

The bond passed in 2003 has an outstanding amount of about $29.4 million.

But the district expects that this will be the last year it will pay off the 2009 bond, which has a remaining debt of about $1.2 million.

The district is also obligated to pay about $154 million on the 2015 bond.

Generally, the school district staggers its bonds and goes out for smaller bonds every five to six years because if it took out a bond at capacity, the amount taxpayers would pay would skyrocket.

The most the district would ever go for a bond is 7.95 percent of the assessed value of the taxpayer's property, but Hughes assures that this is a maximum limit and that there are no plans to go for a bond at that high of a rate.

The district's goal is not to exceed $3 per $1,000 — a bond rate taxpayers in the district are willing to pay for their schools, based on prior bond approvals.

"Right now we are really close to that $3 and that's been the strategy of the district for years is to go for smaller incremental bonds and stay close to $3, then maximize out," said WL-WV Superintendent Kathy Ludwig, adding that if the district drops the rate per thousand too significantly, it will seem like a giant increase when the district goes out for another bond.

Hughes also shared how future 20-year GO bonds would affect the tax rate of community members. For example, if the district were to go out for a $130 million bond in 2019, Hughes said there would be about 18 cents left of capacity — since the district is trying to not exceed $3. But if the district waits three or more years, there will be more leverage.

Though the district did not discuss what bond money would go toward during the Nov. 5 school board meeting, prior meetings have suggested bond money would be used for adding to the district's capacity as the student population grows.

"You can see this stair step approach as we pay off parts of the bond that we have. It opens up space that we have available to us to go out and renew a bond," Ludwig said. "We're likely not shovel ready next year or the following year, but you can still get approval for the bonds."

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