Las Vegas Sun

September 5, 2015

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New option mulled for school construction in Clark County

Clark County voters in November rejected a proposal to raise the property tax to build new schools and renovate existing ones.

A new plan was unveiled Monday to permit the school district to enter into a contract with a nonprofit corporation for the building of new schools.

It would be a lease-purchase agreement in which the school district would not have the upfront costs of construction, says Steven Nielsen, senior vice president development of Educational Facilities Development Services.

Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District said the school board has not agreed to anything, but it allows members another option to consider.

Joining in backing the measure were the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the state Association of School Superintendents and Washoe County.

Sen. Mark Hutchinson, R-Las Vegas, sponsored SB350, saying it would permit a school district to use unpledged revenues to finance capital construction needs.

Haldeman told the Senate Finance Committee, “It’s a good option to pursue.”

The nonprofit corporation, acting as an agent for a school district, would take the bond to the market to secure financing. And a developer, on behalf of the nonprofit corporation, would then build the needed facilities.

Nielsen said the school district would get the school at the end of the lease period which could be 40 years. And there would be a guarantee the nonprofit would make sure the repairs are made so at the end of the lease the school is not run down.

If the school district could not make the payments on the bonds, then the school could be sold, said Nielsen.

Since the financing is a nonrecourse loan, the debt incurred is not a financial obligation of the school district, he said.

There was no opposition in testimony to the committee.

Voters in Clark County turned down a “pay as you go” plan to boost the property tax by 21 cents to raise up to an annual $120 million for six years.

The committee did not take any action on the bill.

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