Roberts Funding

By Michael Long

I became interested in the source of funding for Roberts Elementary after reading some prior exchanges that have been posted on this and on Gary Newton’s prior site. Specifically, I was interested in assertions that the school district used bond funds inappropriately and for “children of a different race” rather than use the funds solely for strengthening existing “disadvantaged” schools in zones (presumably) east of I-430. I found this assertion disturbing and wished to better clarify the source and intention for the funding of the bond issue.

In particular, I find the assertion that only certain races or zones should benefit from educational funds to be offensive; especially given the fact that my children’s bus stop is a microcosm for diversity with 7 Caucasian children, 7 African-American children, and 2 children of Asian descent that happily play together before the bus arrives. I did some (admittedly limited) research into the funding. if anyone has any additional information to share, please do.

The money for Roberts appears to have come from a bond from May 9, 2000 where $190,000,000 was authorized by voters for bonds. I have, unfortunately, been unable to find the exact wording on the voting document describing the purpose of the bond but did find both the board meeting description as well as the 2011 audit discussion of this money. Each reference the ability to use the funds for new construction and neither reference the use of the money for one specific group of students to the exclusion of others. The value approved for construction of the West Little Rock school (Roberts) was $13,195,000 or 6.95% of the total 190,000,000; which doesn’t seem an inequitable or disproportionate use of the funds in my opinion. 

Board Meeting June 26, 2008 Page 6 

C. Issuance of Construction Bonds

A 5-mill tax increase was approved by Little Rock voters in May 2000 which provided $190,000,000 in refunding and construction bonds. Since that time, $176,805,000 in bonds have been issued and used to provide the funding for construction projects across the district. $13,185,000 of these bonds remain unsold.  The board was asked to approve a resolution authorizing the issuance of the remaining $13,195,000 in bonds to be used to fund construction of the new west Little Rock school. Approval of the resolution would grant authority to Stephens, Inc. to submit a competitive bid and conduct a public sale of the bonds. Ms. Fox moved to approve the resolution; Mr. Armstrong seconded the motion and it carried 6 – 0. (Dr. Daugherty was absent at the time of the vote.). 

“(a) School Bonds

“On May 9, 2000, the voters in the District approved the issuance of bonds in the principal amount of up to $190,000,000, the proceeds of which were used for the purpose of refunding outstanding indebtedness, constructing and equipping school facilities, renovations and improvements to existing facilities, and significant repairs to and maintenance of such facilities. These bonds are limited, general obligations of the District, secured by a pledge of a continuing debt service tax of 3.0 debt service mills voted at the 2000 election specifically for payment of these bonds. These bonds will be repaid in annual installments through February 2033 and bear interest at rates ranging from 3.25% to 5.5%. These bonds (the 2000 Election Bonds) were issued in four series as follows:

  • $46,378,560 Series A Construction Bonds, dated September 1, 2000
  • $44,975,874 Series B Refunding Bonds, dated October 15, 2000
  • $89,890,000 Series C Construction Bonds, dated June 1, 2001
  • $13,195,000 Series D, Construction bonds, dated September 1, 2008

“In addition, in November 2003, the District issued $6,375,000 in refunding bonds with interest rates ranging from 3% to 4.25% to advance refund the then outstanding balance of its $6,369,891 Construction Bonds, dated May 1, 2000.

“On December 1, 2006, the District issued $45,505,000 in refunding bonds with interest rates ranging from 4% to 4.5% to advance refund the then outstanding balance ($43,160,000) of its $46,378,560 Series A Construction Bonds, dated September 1, 2000 (the Refunded Bonds). The net proceeds of $45,030,874 were deposited in an irrevocable trust with an escrow agent to provide for all future debt service payments of the Refunded Bonds. As a result, the Refunded Bonds are considered defeased and the liability of those bonds has been removed from the Statement of Net Assets. This advance refunding resulted in a difference between the reacquisition price and the net carrying amount of the Refunded Bonds of $1,870,874. This difference is included in deferred bond costs and is being charged to operations through the year 2033 using the straight-line method. On July 1, 2009, the District issued $21,390,000 in construction bonds with interest rates ranging from 2% to 4.5% to be used for constructing and equipping of school facilities and roof repairs or replacements. These bonds are limited, general obligations of the District and will be repaid in annual installments through February 2033.”

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