Arcadia Unified Secures $5.7 Million in Taxpayer Savings
The Jim Leahy Maintenance Yard (photographed above) was the product of sound fiscal management of Measure I Bond dollars.
In a year filled with unfavorable financial figures for many, the Arcadia Unified School District has secured $5.7 million in silver-lining savings for Arcadia taxpayers. Capitalizing on low interest rates and the district’s exceptional credit rating, Arcadia Unified took action to refinance its current bonds and once again created savings for taxpayers.
“With interest rates falling to historic lows, we were grateful to use this opportunity to create savings for our taxpayers while also being able to get more than we planned for out of these bond dollars,” said Arcadia Unified Superintendent of Business Services Dierk Esseln, who heads the district’s business and fiscal services teams.
Arcadia Unified’s refinanced bonds are those from Measure I, which was originally passed by Arcadia voters in November 2006. Measure I, or the Arcadia Neighborhood Schools, Health, Safety and Repair Measure, authorized $218 million of general obligation bonds to be spent solely for the improvement and modernization of Arcadia Unified’s schools, classrooms, and facilities.
To date, every project on the district’s original capital improvement list has been completed, with every Arcadia Unified school receiving upgrades to classrooms and campuses. Upgrades have included improved technology and renovations in every classroom in the district; increased safety features, such as additional security lighting and fencing; landscaping and sidewalk repairs; new phone and master bell systems; the Arcadia Performing Arts Center; improved utility and power infrastructure; new library and media centers; electronic marquees at every school; enhanced student support and services facilities; and several additional needed restorations and repairs district-wide.
“Our theme for this school year is ‘opportunity’,” shared Arcadia Unified Superintendent Dr. David Vannasdall. “While this year has been rough on us all for many reasons, we are doing our very best to find all of the opportunities we can to help make the most of this time, and this is a prime example of that.”
While low interest rates started the refinance conversation, a key component to the district’s ability to take advantage of the low rates is its high credit rating, explained Assistant Superintendent Esseln, who advised that an integral part of the refinance process involved a review of the district’s credit rating by two industry-leading credit rating agencies, S&P Global Ratings (S&P) and Moody’s Investors Service (Moody’s).
S&P and Moody’s affirmed the district’s bond ratings of AA and Aa1, respectively, citing reasons for the exemplary ratings as Arcadia Unified’s prudent fiscal practices and strong financial position with healthy reserves. Of California school districts that have issued rated bonds so far this year, only 27% received as high a rating from S&P and only 10% received as high a rating from Moody’s, according to the district’s bond refinance report.
Arcadia Unified had the same superior credit rating when it underwent a similar bond refinance of Measure I bonds in 2017, which resulted in taxpayer savings of over $80 million.
Another positive result of Arcadia Unified’s exceptional bond rating, coupled with a competitive bidding environment and cost management, was a gain of over $260k in more funds for district facilities modernization than budgeted. Projects that will be worked on with these additional funds include, but are not limited to, upgrades to technology network cabling; district-wide playground, field shade structures, lighting, and building controls; modernization for the kitchens and locker rooms of each of the district’s middle schools; a Stagecraft Building to complement the Arcadia Performing Arts Center; and updates to Arcadia High’s locker rooms, stadium field rooms, and weight room.
In addition to its sound fiscal practices, Arcadia Unified was recently named in the top 1% best school districts in the nation, according to Niche. Arcadia Unified has also achieved the rare feat of being named to the prestigious AP® District Honor Roll in consecutive years for 2017 and 2018. Likewise, each Arcadia Unified elementary and middle school has been recognized over the years as California Distinguished Schools by the California Department of Education. For more information about the Arcadia Unified School District, visit www.ausd.net.