July 20, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Maize stonewalls releasing bond financials ahead of vote

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Maize residents are set to vote Tuesday on two bond questions for the Maize school district, but district officials will not make financial documents regarding the bond available until “early next week.” The Sentinel was forced to submit an Open Records request for the bond financials from the district after there was no response to phone calls and emails; the important financial information is not published on the district website.

Voters are being asked to vote on two bond questions. Question one is about constructing two intermediate schools along with other updates to existing schools. It is projected to cost $79.5 million. The second question is about constructing an auditorium and pool along with some elementary school improvement and is projected to cost $28.7 million. The total for both questions is $108.2 million.

Maize District Board Clerk Robin Brown said in an email to The Sentinel, “Several bond finance scenarios were drafted early in the process but are inaccurate at this time.” She provided no explanation of how the scenarios would be inaccurate or how that could affect taxpayers ahead of the vote.

At a public meeting Wednesday at the Northwest YMCA, the district said a major selling point is that the current mill levy will not change if the bonds are approved. Maize Superintendent Dr. Chad Higgins said the district could finance the proposed $108 million in new debt with savings from refinancing existing bond debt.

“We passed the ‘15 bond, literally within months we refinanced the previous bonds, and once again since I’ve been here we have refinanced the bonds. Dustin Avey, our bond advisor, said that we saved a little over $8 million.”

But if savings from refinancing existing debt is enough to pay principal and interest on new debt, taxpayers could theoretically receive a property tax reduction if the proposed bonds are rejected by taxpayers.

The Sentinel asked Maize officials how many mills could go away if the bond is voted down, but no response was provided. Board Clerk Robin Brown wrote, “I cannot answer your final two questions without the Director of Finance.” Steve Williams is the Director of Finance for USD 266; he was the first person The Sentinel contacted for financial information on the bond issue, and his failure to respond triggered the Open Records request.

Examining other financial disclosure on the Electronic Municipal Market Place Access for Maize school bonds refinanced in 2017, the district as the issuer struggled to file financial disclosures on time. “In certain prior years, the Issuer has failed to file its Annual Report within the time period prescribed by the Disclosure Undertaking and the Prior Undertakings, and did not timely file notices on EMMA that the Annual Report was missing or late.”

State law apparently doesn’t require school districts to publish basic information like a debt service schedule, the amount of interest that would be paid, or how much of tax reduction voters could receive if a bond proposal is not approved.


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