Bond buyers look for safe havens.
And arguably there aren’t many school districts safer than Manteca Unified.
It is why the district had three times as many buyers as necessary clamoring two months ago to buy the first of the $150 million in Measure M bonds.
Bond buyers were smitten with the credit rating conducted by bond underwriters Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. as well as Piper Jaffray & Co.
They touched on five key areas: district overview, district finances, tax base for general obligation bonds, bonded debt, and financing summary.
In the district overview they were impressed with:
Stable district administration. They noted Jason Messer has been district superintendent for eight years plus has 23 years in education. At the same time Jacqui Breitenbucher has six years as the district’s chief business officer and 22 years in education. The other 36 key personnel they identified all the way down to site principals also had longevity on the same level save for Clark Burke who only has two years with the district as deputy superintendent.
District achievements. That including being a leading school district in promoting classroom technology with every student having a tablet, a 92.8 percent graduation rate that is the highest among San Joaquin County large school districts, first school district to receive recognition from Common Sense Education for students to be safe as well as smart and ethical digital citizens, establishment of the be.tech career academies, priority for student safety such as teaching all 9th graders hands only CPR, and the Regional Environmental Studies Center being awarded LEED Gold Certification. The list also includes implementation of 4.5 megawatts of renewable energy through solar panels for a 32 percent avoidance in energy costs since the fall of 2009, Sierra High being recognized by Microsoft as a “Showcase School” for cutting edge changes in achievement and leadership, Woodward School receiving a grant from the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries as part of its Middle School Programs matter, and sister-school partnerships established by Woodward and Sierra High with schools in Beijing, China. Also earning praise was the third grade AgVenture undertaking, the fourth grade symphony program, fifth grade science camps, sixth grade Planet Party Day, and seventh grade tech day.
In terms of district finances, the bond raters noted:
The district consistently has more than adequate general fund reserves.
Manteca Unified has been averaging around 95% of its overall enrollment qualifying for critical state funding via the average daily attendance.
Teachers (before the latest contract was awarded) are in the top four among unified districts in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties when it comes to compensation and either above or just a few dollars shy of the statewide average. The lowest schedule teacher salary in Manteca Unified in 2013-14 was $46,534, a teacher with a bachelors degree and 60 semester units as at $66,446, the maximum teacher salary was $86,152, and the average annual salary was $70,209. The figures do not reflect benefits teachers receive.
The district’s tax base highlights included:
The annual growth rate in the tax base has averaged 7/7 percent since 1979-80.
The tax base change in 2014-15 was a positive 10.6 percent.
Assessed valuation gain since 1991-92 has averaged 5.18 percent overall on an annual basis going from $2,574,112,357 in 1990-91 to $11,035,706,930 in 2014-15.
Single family homes account for 64.8 percent of secured assessed valuation followed by industrial property at 16.2 percent.
Eight-four percent of the parcels are assessed below the median home sale price.
District and overlapping bond debt from cities, Delta College, and the county secured by property is $472,076,131.
The tax delinquency rate for the district in 2013-14 was 1.53 percent, cut in half from 2009-10.
The district is well positioned for economic development due to its proximity to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, transportation corridors, the Port of Stockton, Stockton Metro Airport, and the Altamont Corridor Express passenger service.
Manteca is particularly bright for the school district with Great Wolf Resort on the horizon, the Austin Road Business Park, and various housing projects. Lathrop also has housing and industrial projects approved plus the district is on the eastern border of River Islands at Lathrop.