CARLSBAD — In the next 12 years every school in the Carlsbad Unified School District will have at least some renovations, many with complete overhauls thanks to passage of Measure HH, the $265 million bond passed in November 2018.
The measure passed with nearly 63 percent of the vote and the district and its board of trustees will begin rolling out the first of four phases later this year. Other projects include energy sustainability and upgraded security measures.
However, each series of bonds the district solicits, four in total, has a 30-year lifespan. Residents are already paying off two other propositions — B, passed in 1997 and P, passed in 2006, which built Sage Creek High School.
For Measure HH, the cost is about $34 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value. For a $500,000 home, it would be about $170 per year.
Since Proposition P’s passage, numerous stakeholders were selected to join an oversight committee to ensure the funds were spent responsibly and legally.
With Measure HH, Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill said it is the goal to carryover the Proposition P committee to Measure HH, and possibly add a few more members.
Rolling over the committee is allowable under state law. Those individuals, though, must be approved by the board, which could make a decision later this month. The Proposition P committee has seven members, but could be expanded if the board approves it.
Once the board approves the election results, it has 60 days to determine whether to expand the committee and amend the bylaws to do so, said Assistant Superintendent Chris Wright. The Proposition P bonds expire in 2035.
“We are allowed to have one oversight committee for both bonds,” he said. “That way, the public has eyes on how the district is spending bond funds to make sure we are doing it correctly.”
“The oversight committee doesn’t tell you how to spend the funds, they look back afterwards and make sure you spent the funds in the correct way,” Churchill added. “That’s an important distinction.”
As for the Measure HH bonds, they will be called for in four separate series and the last will expire in 2053.
The bonds do come with several stipulations, Wright said. The bonds are sold, for example the first phase is $82 million, and must be spent within three years and paid back within 30 years.
However, there are other projects such as technology infrastructure or heating ventilation and air conditioning, which have shorter lifespans, a 10-year bond in the series would be sold, and all the bonds are added into the total cost, Wright said.
“You size the life of the bond to the life cycle of whatever it is you’re buying,” he explained. “You never want to use long-term money for short-term things. That gives you flexibility.”
As for refinancing when interest rates are low, Wright said the regulations have changed. So, instead of being able to refinance at will, the district must wait at least 10 years when the bonds are “callable.” Refinancing lowers the cost to taxpayers.
“Every time we’ve been able to refinance, we have,” Wright said. “The term would be the same, but taxpayers would be paying less.”