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CA School District Owes $1 Billion On $100 Million Loan


More than 200 school districts across California are taking a second look at the high price of the debt they’ve taken on using risky financial arrangements. Collectively, the districts have borrowed billions in loans that defer payments for years — leaving many districts owing far more than they borrowed.

In 2010, officials at the West Contra Costa School District, just east of San Francisco, were in a bind. The district needed $2.5 million to help secure a federally subsidized $25 million loan to build a badly needed elementary school.

Charles Ramsey, president of the school board, says he needed that $2.5 million upfront, but the district didn’t have it.

Why would you leave $25 million on the table? You would never leave $25 million on the table.

- Charles Ramsey, school board president, West Contra Costa School District

“We’d be foolish not to take advantage of getting $25 million” when the district had to spend just $2.5 million to get it, Ramsey says. “The only way we could do it was with a [capital appreciation bond].”

Those bonds, known as CABs, are unlike typical bonds, where a school district is required to make immediate and regular payments. Instead, CABs allow districts to defer payments well into the future — by which time lots of interest has accrued.

In the West Contra Costa Schools’ case, that $2.5 million bond will cost the district a whopping $34 million to repay.

http://www.npr.org/2012/12/07/166745290/school-district-owes-1-billion-on-100-million-loan

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