Revised bond terms given the green light

An unusual plan to change the terms of a nearly $300 million school bond without voter approval was given the go-ahead by county supervisors Tuesday.

District officials say a mistake in the language of Measure M, a 25-year bond passed by voters in 2006, has left the schools short of the $298 million in critical infrastructure repairs authorized by the voters.

Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of authorizing the San Mateo Union High School District to issue and sell its own bonds. The district plans to issue longer-term bonds of up to 40 years.

Adrienne Tissier, the one dissenting vote, said she was troubled by the idea of supervisors inadvertently circumventing the will of the voters. The school board has a contract with the taxpayers, and the change in terms should go back to the ballot in November as an amendment to Measure M, she said. “I do believe the public is smarter than we give them credit for,” she said.

Supervisor Jerry Hill, who had expressed reservations about voting yes, said his legal questions had been satisfied.

“In talking with the lawyer, I became more comfortable and it became clearer that the cost to taxpayers would remain the same — we were still taking about $298 million,” he said. “The project list for the schools that voters approved hasn’t changed.”

Hill said the years homeowners would pay $16 per $100,000 worth of property would not be extended significantly, if at all.

With authorization from the Board of Supervisors, the school district will receive a better interest rate than if it issued the bonds without county approval, Hill said.

School district officials say the option of going back to the voters would cost between $300,000 and $400,000 — monies that would be deducted from critical infrastructure repairs.

Aragon High School parent Michael Loy, who spoke on behalf of the school district, said the other option of cutting items on the project improvement list would be disastrous. At Aragon, he said, the school theater has 300 seats for approximately 1,400 students.

The district’s plan to issue the bonds will now go before the school board in late May or early June, school board member Dave Pine said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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