The new chair of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education is still uncertain if a problem exists with the 2007 bond issue.
“I really don’t know if there is a problem,” said board chairwoman Angela Monson.
Before her election to the board chairman position in February, district officials were warning of serious issues with the 2007 bond. Oklahoma City schools Superintendent Karl Springer announced in December that a new examination of the bonds found a shortfall of $40 million. Springer explained money would run out before the all of the projects would be completed.
In October of 2007, school patrons approved four bond proposals totaling more than $200 million. The bonds covered items such as new gymnasiums, school buses and computers.
Springer said the construction plan was based on a five-year timeline, but that the funding plan was based on 10 years. He also said the projects could not be stretched out to 10 years because of rising inflation costs which were not calculated when presenting the bonds to the public for a vote. He suggested leaving three of the four bond issues alone, allowing them to be sold and used for their intended purposes, but that the main bond issue for construction be put on hold.
But Monson is skeptical at this point.
“Assuming we have that list and some amount, and I can’t imagine us not taking into account inflation, I would be really surprised if we made a big error,” she said. “But I have not yet seen the numbers. I’ve asked for that and I’m waiting for that.”
Former school board chairman Kirk Humphreys agreed with Springer and came up with a plan to fulfill the construction phase of the bond issue. Humphreys suggested tapping into unused bonding capacity, along with extending the maturity of the bonds, to help get the numbers to add up.
But a week after Humphreys presented his solution, he lost his election bid for the board chair to Monson.
The new chair said, as of now, that plan is on hold.
“I know we sold some bonds issued,” Monson said. “And we pretty much have all that money still. If we didn’t have enough money, certainly we wouldn’t have sold $24 million in bonds, which leads me to question to what extent there has been agreement on certain projects.”
She is not the only one skeptical of the district’s position. Cliff Hudson, who chaired the school board before Humphreys, told Oklahoma Gazette in February he believes the bond numbers are on solid ground.
“I have never felt that the 2007 program would not work,” Hudson said.
The board is not scheduled to take up the matter at its next meeting on March 23. “Scott Cooper