Voters’ wallets open wider

Local taxpayers must foot a bill for more than $15 million for recent school improvements they did not approve, including $3 million in payments to bond issuers, according to a civil grand jury investigation.

Throughout the last three years, seven San Mateo County school districts have essentially refinanced voter-approved bonds to pay for additional building repairs, a process that generally takes place without public knowledge, according to the report.

The refinancing into new "cash out” bonds allowed the seven districts to spend $15.56 million more than voters approved, although the money will ultimately be supplied by taxpayers, the report said. Of that money, 19 percent, or $2.95 million, was paid back to the bond issuer, leaving $12.6 million for the districts to spend on building improvements, it said.

The districts that took out the extra money include San Mateo-Foster City, Belmont-Redwood Shores, Jefferson Union High and South San Francisco. Voters originally approved $180 million worth of bonds for the seven districts.

The report did not take a position on bond refinancing but rather pushed for more awareness.

“Our position is that the voters ought to know what the heck is going on,” grand jury Foreman Gerald Yafee said.

While not responding specifically to the report, which she had not read yet, Micaela Ochoa, chief business official for the San Mateo-Foster City district, said school districts usually refinance bonds in order to pay them off sooner or reduce the interest rates.

“Most times when districts refund or refinance their bonds, the purpose is to save taxpayers money,” said Micaela Ochoa, San Mateo-Foster City chief business official. “We did [refinance our $79 million bond] and we generated savings to taxpayers. We also generated money for the district.”

Ochoa said her district’s bond, passed in 1997, was originally expected to be paid off by 2032 but refinancing has moved that date to 2023.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

County schools “cash out” bonds, 2005-07

Seven: School districts that refinanced bonds

$186 million: Amount of original voter-approved bonds passed

$15.56 million: Extra taxpayer burden from bond refinancing

19 percent: Amount of extra money that went back to bond issuers

Source: San Mateo County civil grand jury

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

A warning notice sits under the windshield wiper of a recreational vehicle belonging to a homeless man named David as it sits parked on De Wolf Street near Alemany Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. A proposed SF Municipal Transportation Agency law would make it illegal for overnight parking on the side street for vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over ‘poverty tows’ heats up

‘What can we do to ensure the vehicle stays in the hands of the owner?’

Crab fisherman Skip Ward of Marysville casts his crab net out off a pier near Fort Point. (Craig Lee/Special to The	Examiner)
San Francisco came back to life, and we captured it all

Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic, the bestselling authors… Continue reading

Revelers at Madrone Art Bar in the early hours of June 15, 2021 (Courtesy Power Quevedo).
No social distancing at Motown-themed dance party

‘I don’t care how anyone feels, I just want to dance!’

Azikiwee Anderson of Rize Up Bakery pulls and twists sourdough into shape on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s Rize Up Bakery serving up sourdough with a call to action

Azikiwee Anderson wakes up most mornings just before dawn to start cooking… Continue reading

Most Read