San Dieguito Union High School District moves closer to bond measure

By Marsha Sutton

The San Dieguito Union High School District is poised to ask voters to approve a General Obligation bond measure this year for over $400 million — for school renovation, technology upgrades and new construction — to serve its more than 12,000 middle and high school students.

Three contracts related to the bond were discussed at the district’s Feb. 2 board meeting. The board unanimously approved agreements with the Dolinka Group of Irvine for financial advisory services and De La Rosa & Company for bond underwriting.

The third item ‚ selecting Tramutola LLC as the public information and ballot measure consulting company — was given a first reading and will be voted on at the Feb. 16 board meeting. All firms were chosen from published Requests for Proposals.

Eric Dill, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of business services, said Dolinka is a firm with a long history with SDUHSD and “has great insight” into the community and the district. He said the district has also worked successfully with De La Rosa in the past.

He said the two firms will work together. Dolinka will analyze the district’s tax base, review and fine-tune the project list, and determine the bonding capability. The underwriter, he said, knows what the market will bear, forecasts the reaction of credit rating agencies, coordinates with Dolinka on the sizing and pricing of the bonds, prepares documentation for issuance, and markets the bonds.

“It starts with the financial advisor, but they need to be talking with the underwriter,” Dill said in an interview. “They’re going to work in tandem [but] they’re independent.”

Dolinka’s Phase 1 work will evaluate whether the district should place the bond measure on the June or November ballot. Dolinka’s cost is $20,000, payment of which is contingent upon a successful effort, Dill said.

Phase 2, at a cost of $65,000, is to provide advisory services on the issuance of the bonds if the GO bond is approved by voters. Funding for Dolinka will come from “campaign donations and future bond issues,” according to the district report.

De La Rosa will be funded by money collected from bond sales, at an unspecified amount. John Addleman, SDUHSD’s director of planning and financial management, said the price depends upon the size of the sale. The maximum amount is $7 per bond and the first issue is expected to be about $3.75 per bond, he said.

Uncharted territory

The third item involved the selection of Oakland-based Tramutola LLC, to do three phases of work: a feasibility study, a public information campaign and post-election follow-up.

In Phase 1, the feasibility study, Tramutola would gather data, assess the mood of voters, and ascertain what dollar amount and what projects would most likely garner approval. The purpose, Dill said in an interview, is to “make sure that what we are proposing to put on the ballot is something that the public will support.”

This work is necessary, he said, because “we are in uncharted territory” and the district needs to know if the public will support the measure – and if so, in what form. If there is little support, “we need to know that too,” he said.

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