PENDLETON — With the construction projects funded by the Pendleton School District bond long since completed, the public is in the midst of paying off the bill.
But Pendleton taxpayers could end up paying less than expected, a development that could impact property tax statements.
At a Pendleton School Board workshop Tuesday morning, Michelle Jones, the district’s director of business services, told board members that staff was exploring refinancing the bond, which was originally valued at $55 million.
Jones said the district and investment bank Piper Jaffray have been engaged in discussions on taking advantage of low interest rates and refinancing the district’s bonded debt.
If the district agreed to it, the school system could see $3-3.5 million in savings, Jones said.
“It’s a great deal,” school board chairman Gary George said.
Jones said the district could take multiple approaches to how they might use those savings.
The district could make the cuts across the board, allowing them to reduce the dollar-per-thousand rate from $2.40 to $2.11.
Jones said the district could also use a “step” approach, meaning the district could go out for another bond without having to raise the property tax rate.
Regardless of how much the public pays, taxpayers are on the hook for the foreseeable future: Jones said the bond is set to expire in 2038.
Pendleton voters’ large investment in the school system was used to overhaul the district’s aging facilities, especially at the elementary school level.
Using proceeds from the bond, the district demolished the old Washington and Sherwood Heights elementary schools, building new, larger schools in their place.
The district heavily renovated the old Hawthorne school, turning it into the Pendleton Early Learning Center, a centralized kindergarten and preschool.
The new schools allowed the district to consolidate Lincoln Primary School, which became the district’s central office, and West Hills Intermediate School, which now houses the Pendleton Technology and Trades Center and Hawthorne Alternative High School.
After the burst of activity in the first few years following the bond, the district began addressing projects further down their priority list, culminating in an auditorium renovation and track replacement at Pendleton High School and the demolition of the old district office in 2017.
The bond refinance is already on the agenda for the board’s Oct. 14 meeting. Jones said the board’s action would allow district staff to negotiate the refinance, which they would hope to close by the end of the year.