LEAs look for relief from debt limits

LEAs look for relief from debt limits

(Calif.) As voters consider approving some $15 billion in local school bonds in today’s election, four local educational agencies are looking for state permission to increase how much they can borrow.

Under state law, LEAs are prohibited from having a total bonded indebtedness of more than 1.25 percent of taxable assessed valuation of property for elementary and high school districts, and 2.5 percent of taxable property for unified school districts.

As part of the California State Board of Education’s regular November calendar, five districts are requesting the board waive those borrowing requirements.

The five LEAs are:

  • Central Unified School District
  • Earlimart Elementary School District
  • Hawthorne School District
  • Lynwood Unified School District
  • And Roseville Joint Union High School District.

Central Unified, which is located in the Fresno area, has $66 million in bonds already approved by voters and wants to raise their debt limit to 3.13 percent.

Earlimart Elementary School District, located north of Bakersfield, has $1.95 million in bonds approved by the voters in November 2016. The district is requesting that the board allow them to exceeded the limit to 1.34 percent.

Hawthorne School District, in Los Angeles County, wants to use $35 million in borrowing approved by voters in June, which would raise their limit to 1.55 percent.

Lynwood Unified, also in Los Angeles County, wants to tap $96 million approved by the voters in 2012 and 2016. The district is requesting approval to exceed capacity limit to a rate up to 4.50 percent.

Finally, Roseville Joint Union High School District, located in Placer County, has $40 million approved in 2007, which would take them up to 2.86 percent.

Staff at the California Department of Education have recommended that the board approve each of the requests with the condition that they also limit how long the LEAs can continue to carry the higher debt load.

The state board has broad authority to waive almost any section of the Education Code when no other remedy can be identified.

Last year, after schools were confronted with a host of new policies and conditions created by a wholesale restructuring of the school testing and accountability system, LEAs submitted 416 waiver applications—a 30 percent increase over 2016.

Among the common requests was relief from requirements over a testing report deadline; mandates for LEAs to provide summertime instruction for students with disabilities; and state codes that limit where a charter school can be located.

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