Now that the $174.6 million bond referendum is behind us, the Richardson Independent School District is embarking upon the process of selling the bonds to fund construction costs for our long-range building program.
The first step in bond issuance is to secure bond ratings. The higher a bond’s rating, the lower the interest we must pay investors, which means the greater the savings for taxpayers.
In December, RISD presented documents on its financial position to the rating agencies, who will render their decision mid-January. Our Moody’s rating is Aa1, and we expect no change. This rating is one rating below Moody’s highest rating.
But at Standard & Poor’s, we requested an increase from AA to AA+, (which would put RISD one level under the highest rating) based on the outstanding results of our educational programs, student performance and financial strength. Our current ratings place us in the top five districts statewide.
We’re hopeful to be one level under the top ratings for both rating agencies, which would rank our district as second in the state.
The first bond sale, scheduled for Jan. 21 with closing on Feb. 20, will be $48.3 million. Additional bonds will be sold early in 1998, 1999 and 2000. We’re spacing these sales out for several reasons.
First, they are carefully timed to coincide with our construction and spending needs in order to save interest expense.
Second, while bond funds are waiting to be disbursed, they will be invested in secure interest bearing savings instruments, which will actually pay RISD more interest than the rate we will be paying our bond holders. The IRS allows us to keep this income (called interest arbitrage) only if we spend all bond proceeds within two years of an issue.
So, we’ve divided the $174.6 million into four bond packages, which could reduce taxpayer expense by up to $1.5 million due to interest arbitrage savings.
The first major RISD building project is the ninth-grade center on the Lake Highlands High School campus. Construction will begin in early April, and the school will open in the fall of 1998.
A steering committee comprised of staff, parents and neighborhood members is already at work advising the district. The committee is divided into five subcommittees, each co-chaired by one staff and one community member. Three subcommittees are responsible for building, curriculum and student involvement issues. Subcommittees, on-site operations and staffing will begin their work once a principal is named.
In order to address community concerns, we sponsored two well-attended public meetings last month for citizens to speak directly with City staff about traffic and zoning issues related to the new school.
In addition, about 100 Lake Highlands residents are serving as Reflectors for the subcommittees. Reflectors “reflect” on proposed ideas and give the subcommittees additional perspectives. If you would like to give input to the steering committee, please call the committee’s chairman, Darryl Cross at 972-238-6600.
Although bonds and new schools are exciting, we must always stay focused on educational results. We’ve just published the 1995-96 Annual Performance Report, and her are some highlights:
- RISD has the most Exemplary schools in the state, 17 this year (up from 11 last year).
- RISD has the highest number of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists of any district in North Central Texas. (Lake Highlands leads the district with 13 semifinalists.)
- Eighty-eight percent of RISD students take the SAT, and scores continue to trend upward.
These statistics and many others are available for public inspection in every school, or the Performance Report can be purchased at the Administration Building, 400 S. Greenville Ave.
The first volume of the Report costs $6 and gives data in the format prescribed by the state, RISD has added a unique, user friendly second volume that graphs each school’s results and costs $4.
This is an exciting time for our schools, and the distinctive spirit of the Lake Highlands community continues to improve education for all of our children.