Budget talks turn to school bond for Ramona

By Maureen Robertson

Ramona Unified School District is considering asking voters to approve a general obligation bond.

During a two-hour workshop Monday evening, school board members and district administrators listened as two financial advisers mapped out the district’s options, with the discussion focusing on a bond election after groundwork is laid and a pre-election survey shows voter support.

“Most districts that fail should never have gone in the first place,” said Jon Isom, managing principal of Isom Advisors, a division of Urban Futures Inc. “We don’t go unless we think it’s going to pass.”

Based on Proposition 39 requirements, the district could ask for up to $60 million.

That could provide general fund relief, said Isom, with bond money used for a things such as deferred maintenance, energy efficiency, technology, facilities improvements, and paying down the district’s debt. In 2004, the district borrowed $25 million and refinanced in 2007.

“The ‘07 refinance gave you some flexibility, but that day of reckoning is coming,” said Isom.

Mark J. Farrell, managing director of public finance investment banking for Piper Jaffray, said the refinance was for $24.3 million.

Isom said his firm’s success rate with school bonds is 90%. Prop. 39 requires 55% voter approval as long as specific requirements are met, Isom said.

Voter demographics who votes in which election, and a review of Ramona election turnouts were among other areas reviewed.

“The best time to go is when you’re ready,” Isom said.

The advisers are paid on a contingency basis — “no win, no pay,” Isom said, but no specifics were discussed.

Costs to hire people to make survey calls during the pre-election phase likely would be paid by campaign donations, he said, responding to one in a series of questions from board member Bob Stoody.

Superintendent Bob Graeff said he will talk to board members in pairs between now and the May 19 school board meeting, when he expects the topic will be on the agenda.



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