Development of community survey continues on proposed Rancho Santa Fe School District gym expansion, bond

By Karen Billing

Rancho Santa Fe School District continues to prepare a survey that will ask district members how they would feel about expanding the school gym and a possible general obligation bond to cover the cost. The survey is not yet complete but district superintendent Lindy Delaney hopes that once the survey is finished and mailed out, the district could get results by mid-March.

At its Feb. 5 meeting, the board took a field trip outside to look at the potential footprint of an expanded-three court gym. Cones marked where a new facility could expand to on campus, providing the district’s ideal program of three high school-size courts, space for dance and wrestling programs, space for concessions and ticketing, changing rooms, coaches offices, student and public restrooms, and storage.

The cones extended out past the first few rows of parking spaces in the front parking lot, bringing the gym in line with the existing 600 building (main classroom building) in the front of the school. Cones also extended in the back toward the RSF Community Center and to the center’s parking lot, where the district’s property line actually extends to include five parking spaces.

Cones on the side of the gym marked where the district is looking at adding a mezzanine level. The lockers currently on the gym building would remain in a protected area under the mezzanine, as would the current patio area between the gym and the 600 building.

As Debi Vaughn-Cleff of Web Cleff Architecture said, right now the plans are just a big bubble and they can always “squeeze that bubble down.”

Also at the school board’s Feb. 5 meeting, Jeff Baratta the district’s bond consultant from Piper Jaffray, gave a presentation on general obligation bonds. Should the district decide to go for a bond, it would need 55 percent approval to pass. The bond would need to go to a statewide primary, general or special election so the district could aim for June or November 2014.

Per Proposition 39, districts that use GO bonds are held to accountability measures such as providing a list of specific school facility projects to be funded, a citizens oversight committee, and performance and financial audits. The tax rate must be no more than $30 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Baratta said bonding capacity at a given tax rate is a function of variables such as beginning assessed valuation, the number of years tax is to be levied, assumed interest rates on bonds, timing and amount of individual bond sales, and the shape of the debt service profile.

“Rancho Santa Fe’s assessed value since 2000 has been very positive, with an average annual growth of 6.5 percent,” Baratta said, noting the community experienced the downturn in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and, while not at its 2010 apex, this year RSF is back up in a positive level of 2 percent growth.

Looking at the theoretical tax revenue available based on assessed valuation, Baratta said even at a 3 percent assessed valuation growth, the assessed valuation could grow the $13 billion over a 30-year period and have a bond size of $36 million.

“Even at 3 percent, we’re well within what we need,” Baratta said.

The district has an AAA bond rating, the highest possible rating assigned. Baratta said in the last bond sale, the district gave priority to the community first — anyone in the zip code had the opportunity to buy bonds first.

“A lot of people wanted your bonds,” Baratta said, noting every bond sold to a member of the zip code and they weren’t sold to anyone outside the community, which is very unusual.

The next steps for a potential bond will follow the results of the community poll, he said. If the poll comes back favorably, the district could call the election and form a campaign committee to generate voter support.