Betting on Bonds

Spending by education institutions on new construction and renovation projects has been robust for some time. A look at school construction bond referenda proposed and passed in the past year can shed some light on what may be in store for longer-term education construction prospects.

A bond proposal signifies an institution's need for capital funds; it's passage is a barometer of the public's support of school infrastructure issues. Of the 667 school construction bond issues proposed in 2005, 60.6 percent were passed (representing more than $17 billion). The percentage is down slightly from the 69.9 percent approved in 2004.

Total-dollar amount of school construction referenda passed in 2005 was down from the almost $35 billion approved the year before. Much of the difference can be attributed to California's massive $12.3 billion statewide initiative passed in 2004.

The 10 largest school bond issues passed in 2005:

  • Los Angeles ($3.985 billion).

  • Mecklenburg County, N.C. ($427 million).

  • West Contra Costa, Calif. ($400 million).

  • San Antonio, Texas ($399 million).

  • Spring, Texas ($384 million).

  • Round Rock, Texas ($349 million).

  • Humble, Texas ($342 million).

  • Newport Mesa, Calif. ($282 million).

  • Blue Valley, Kan. ($279.9 million).

  • Fairfax County, Va. ($246.3 million).

Plans are heating up in many communities for bond referenda for school construction. For example, Baltimore says it requires $1.8 billion for capital improvements over the next decade; Wake County, N.C., needs to spend between $4.25 billion and $5.59 billion over the next decade.

As the new year kicks into gear, expect to see education institutions across the nation put their infrastructure issues before the public in an attempt to address growing space needs, deteriorating facilities and new program requirements.

SCORECARD

667

Number of school construction bond referenda, totaling $24.430 billion, proposed in 2005.

404

Number of school construction bond referenda, totaling $17.007 billion, approved by voters in 2005.

69.6

Percentage of the dollar-total submitted that voters approved in 2005 bond referenda.

60.5

Percentage of the total school construction bond issues approved by voters in 2005.

3.98

Amount (in $ billions) of the largest school construction bond issue approved in 2005 (Los Angeles Unified School District). In 2004, city voters passed a $3.87 billion issue.

Source: The Bond Buyer.

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