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MARICOPA — Amid mass uncertainties over the health implications of the COVID-19 outbreak, local schools are preparing for financial consequences as well.

At a Maricopa Unified School District board meeting March 11, Mike LaValley from Stifel, Nicolaus & Company Inc. gave a presentation on the effects the stock market’s historical lows might have on MUSD’s 2020 bond measure, should they decide to continue with it.

The district sought a bond in 2019 that would mostly be used to fund a second high school, but the measure failed at the ballot box. They have indicated they would like to pursue one again this year.

Total assessed valuation improved greatly this year and is likely to remain the same until August.

“Last year your 10-year averages, because of 10-11 years ago brought a lot of negative decline, caused the 10-year averages to be pretty low,” LaValley said. “Now they’re up, and that’s helpful because if you were to have an election, when we print the voter pamphlet we put in a debt service schedule, we’re allowed to grow your tax base using the 10-year average.”

MUSD is currently growing at about 6.8% over the last five years, which is also helpful in their pursuit of bond funding.

Based on current calculations, MUSD’s bonding capacity is close to $50 million, but with debt payoffs and assessed valuations that number will raise to $60 million.

“As a reminder though, you’re not limited to this number in terms of what you ask for in an election. You can go lower, of course, but you can also go higher if you need to,” LaValley said.

He then suggested three separate scenarios based on the size of the bond election the district may want. Scenario one at $40 million would cost $64.02 for a homeowner whose home was tax valued at $100,000. Scenario two, $45 million, would tax homeowners $71.82 per $100,000. The final estimation was $55 million, with $80.34 taxation per $100,000 home value.

LaValley reiterated that tax value is typically about 85% of market value on a home. Regardless of which scenario they choose, if they decide to go forward with the bond for this November they will need to notify LaValley by June.

He then went on to a new presentation regarding the possibility of refinancing in the district due to the dropping stock market. He told the board that his numbers from that Monday were already “stale” due to the rapid decreases in the market, which are still happening today. LaValley pointed to COVID-19 and Saudi Arabia’s decision to flood the market with oil as the reasoning for the quick downfalls.

“The market has come down to a place where we think there is an opportunity here for you to at least consider replacing old debt with new debt at lower rates, kind of like refinancing your home mortgage, to save taxpayer dollars,” LaValley said.

However, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company Inc. has struggled nationally in the past week to cope with the rapidly degrading stock market.

“What’s more concerning is — we just have a lot of dysfunction this week, we don’t really have a healthy market. There’s not active buyers and sellers right now. Thankfully I had a couple bond issues going, I moved one up to last week and locked in rates. I was so thankful because this week we probably would have had to postpone the issue,” LaValley said. “We’ve had to postpone issues as a firm nationally across our system — other firms too.”

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Katie Sawyer covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at ksawyer@pinalcentral.com.

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