$365,000 in bond upgrades at 4 Westside schools

       A District 11 decision to move forward with $4 million in capital improvements from last fall's bond-issue election will mean upgrades at four Westside schools over the next two years.
       The only school with work scheduled this year is Midland Elementary, whose half-century-old sewer pipes will be replaced at a cost of $25,000.
       This work was identified as follows in last fall's bond-issue documentation: “Replace sanitary sewer system because of old piping, bad material and many stop-ups.”
       Other Westside school improvements - planned for 2006 - are plumbing work at Ivywild ($75,000) and Buena Vista ($50,000) elementaries and heating/ventilation upgrades at Pike ($215,000).
       The $131.7 million bond issue won voter approval last November, but a separate measure to fund it failed.
       The district borrowed the $4 million through the Colorado Department of Education Qualified Zone Academy Bonds program. District 11's actual amount available to spend on building improvements will be $4.4 million. This is due to the program requiring a 10 percent corporate match. For this purpose, District 11 used $400,000 of the $500,000 that Coca-Cola was already donating this year, according to District 11 Chief Financial Officer Glenn Gustafson.
       He described the transaction as “a great deal for the district” for two main reasons: Money obtained through the program is interest-free and, as a result of bidding out the bonds' “cash flow stream” - attractive to financiers needing a reliable source of money - the district will end up paying back $500,000 less than what it borrowed, he said.
       Statewide, districts had to compete for the money, with District 11 garnering half of the $8 million available. “We were thrilled,” Gustafson said. The district must pay back the principal over 16 years. “So we'll have to squeeze a few pennies,” Gustafson said, “but interest-free, how do you pass that up?”
       Under the program stipulation, the money must be used for schools having at least 35 percent free or reduced lunches. Including the Westside schools, the district has selected 17 such schools in all to receive just over $4 million in improvements that were identified for them in the bond issue. Decisions on what work should be done with the additional $400,000 are still being made, Gustafson said.

Westside Pioneer article