A few Board of Trustees members voiced concern over the future of the Mesaure O bond initiative during the presentation update at the Westminster School Board special board meeting held on Thursday.
Some board members expressed deep reservations about the bond initiative which was approved in November 2008. The measure served to kick start modernization projects at several school sites.
During the presentation, conversation between Broad of Trustee President Mary Mangold and California Financial Services chief partner Michael Ogburn turned tense at times. Mangold even cited an April Orange County Register article discussing the risk of short-term loans for school districts.
According to the article, which featured Ogburn, WSD took out two short-term loans for about $35 million for construction projects.
Mangold questioned Ogburn’s interest in the bond initiative. According to the article, Ogburn’s firm has been paid $622,000 since 2008.
“Obviously, you’re selling us a product,” Mangold said. “I’m not an accountant. It’s very difficult to understand these numbers.”
“There’s obviously a conflict of interest because you are a salesman,” she added.
According to the presentation, the Measure O funding, so far, has contributed more than $72 million to the current completed and active projects. However, there is close to a $3 million deficit in the program budget.
In April 2013, a series of bonds were sold to to pay the 2010 Series A bond appreciation notes. The district still has the 2010 Series B bond appreciation notes to repay.
Ogburn suggested during the presentation the district issue another series of bonds in order for the 2010 Series B repayment funds and try to capitalize on a combination bond initiative (capital interest and cash appreciation bonds). A state law proposal on school bond regulations is currently circuiting around legislative, Ogburn said.
Ogburn said during his presentation that the bond initiative helped speed of the modernization process quicker. He also said that his firm’s goals are in line with the school’s districts during the presentation.
“Our objectives are in the same place,” he said. ”You just don’t pay us just to be paying us.”
But the uncertainty of funding comes at a difficult time for the district, having to cut positions so far this year.
“We’re stuck,” Board of Trustee member Amy Walsh said. “We’re damn if we do, we’re damn if we don’t.”
The Board also rejected a resolution, 3-2, reinstating two administration positions that was eliminated the previous board meeting.
Superintendent Richard Tauer expressed support for the two different positions: administrator of curriculum and instruction and administrator of categorical programs and assessments. Tauer lobbied to keep the positions which he said were needed to help push the district into the future.
Tauer had previously advised the board to not eliminate the two positions. The board voted in favor against Tauer’s request during the May 9 meeting, but inserted in the resolution that positions could be brought back in a priority first list once the state’s budget projections improved.
Some of the responsibilities of the administrator of curriculum and instruction include facilitating school’s curriculum from the No Child Left Behind program to the new Common Core program, Tauer said during his presentation. The position also oversees the several magnet programs of the district and benchmark testing.
The administrator of categorical programs and assessments helps oversees the $6 million funding of the programs.
Tauer also added that the positions that were up for reinstatement would primary be paid by grants and funds not affecting the school district’s general fund.
Walsh said she could not approve the resolution because the budget still offered uncertainty for the upcoming school year.
“I don’t feel comfortable putting positions back on the table until we have more concrete numbers,” she said. “I’m not saying these positions aren’t important. I know about these positions first hand.”
Tauer said the budget numbers are as accurate as possible, since the information was partnered with School Services of California Inc., a financial consultant, during a conference in Ontario this month.
“This is not a ‘guesstimate’,” Tauer said. “This is probably as good as we can get it. The information they have is very solid information.”
Board of Trustee member Jamison Power was one of two board members who voted in favor with the resolution. Board of Trustee member Dave Bridgewaters also voted in favor.
“If you feel like these positions are important then you can’t vote to cut them,” Power said. “It doesn’t make sense to risk $6 million in funds to cut zero dollars in the general fund.
Another resolution restoring the director of information and technology also got struck down during the meeting after no one second the motion.
The next board meeting will convened on June 20.