LASD keeps options open for needed facilities funding for new construction

Los Altos School District officials are waiting for the Santa Rita and Oak elementary site plans to be completed before deciding on how and when the board of trustees will raise additional funding beyond its $94.7 million bond measure, to complete the desired renovation of their six campuses.

At issue is how money for "Phase II" construction will be obtained.

"People assume it's (additional funding) going to be a bond issue," said Dave McNulty, the district's director of construction. "But we cannot really come to a decision about that until we know how much it's going to cost."

Need for a second phase of funding became clear when the estimated cost for new construction at the elementary schools exceeded the amount raised in the 1998 bond issue. "For the elementaries, we are only going to have enough money to do the modernization work, which is just fixing up the existing buildings," McNulty said. "Early this September, we should have a site plan for the remaining schools, and an estimation of costs for what is not now funded."

A site plan is an outline of where all new buildings would go and what is needed at each campus in terms of construction, McNulty said.

The timeline for a possible bond measure is unclear.

"First we need to determine as closely as possible what our Phase II needs will be," said Superintendent Marge Gratiot.

"Second, we need to make sure our bonding capacity will allow us to ask the voters to approve a supplemental bond for that amount without increasing their annual payments significantly."

The Los Altos School District received an AA+ bond rating from Standard and Poors, which has helped the district financially.

"We got such a high bond rating that our interest payments are lower than anticipated and the property values in our district are increasing faster than projected," Gratiot said.

Timing is a crucial element in funding Phase II construction with a second bond issue.

"We are not allowed to sell bonds unless we can spend the proceeds within three years," Gratiot said. "All of these things would affect the timing of an election."

Planning will begin for the Santa Rita and Oak school sites in the fall. Gelfand RNP architects will draw up the plans.

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