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D21 looks at ways to make repairs

Pressing capital improvement needs, such as a leaking roof at Chenowith Elementary, are pushing Randy Anderson, North Wasco County School District 21’s chief financial officer, to look at options to raise cash.

He told school board members during a March 26 special meeting that, as the district cuts more teachers and more programs each year, it is hard to find money in the budget for any but the most urgent repairs. District 21 is also anticipating the need for more modular buildings or some other solution to make room for full-day kindergarten, something the state is pushing hard for districts to implement as soon as possible.

Anderson said one option would be to take advantage of low interest rates and refinance the $5 million loan the district took out in 2007 to pay for capital projects like fixing leaking roofs. The district would achieve the refinancing by selling new bonds to pay off the old ones, which would result in lower interest rates on future payments.

“We all recognize no one is going to borrow their way to prosperity, but it is unlikely we are going to get enough capital money from the operating budget,” he said.

Anderson said he would get a representative from Seattle-Northwest Securities to speak with the board in an upcoming school board meeting to explain the option in further detail.

Superintendent Candy Armstrong said even though people were angry the district took out the $5 million loan, it funded a number of important projects. For example, she said, without that money the Wahtonka building would not be in operation today and the high school auditorium would have remained unusable after dangerous structural damage was found under its floor.

Armstrong supported the refinance, as well as other budgeting strategies that had been proposed earlier in the meeting, as a way to avoid disrupting student education.

“We are looking at some options that are distasteful, that we wouldn’t do in our own family’s budget, but they are helping us get through this next step and keep the kids moving forward,” she said.

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