Vashon school district garners major federal bond award

The Vashon Island School District won a federal award that could save Vashon taxpayers up to $8 million in interest payments should one or both of the bond measures overhauling the Vashon High School pass on Feb. 8.

The school district learned this week that it was one of six in the state to be approved for a Qualified School Construction Bond, a program developed as part of the Obama Administration's stimulus package two years ago to support school construction projects and trigger employment.

Vashon was awarded a $17.5 million Qualified School Construction Bond, the largest of the six awards announced this year, said Nathan Olson, a spokesperson for the Office for the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), which just announced the awards. All told, he said, OSPI received $123 million in requests from several districts. It was able to issue $58.8 million in federal subsidies.

The Qualified School Construction Bond provides federal income tax credits in lieu of interest to lenders who purchase bonds from eligible school districts. As a result, the award acts as an interest-free or low-interest loan to school districts that are borrowing money to undertake construction projects.

In Vashon's case, the district will likely save close to $8 million in interest costs, said Eric Gill, the district's capital projects manager.

If voters approve Prop. 1 and 2 in the Feb. 8 mail-in election, the district would still issue $51 million in bonds, Gill said. But the overall tax liability will be reduced because of the interest savings, he said.

Michael Soltman, the district's superintendent, called the federal subsidy "a great opportunity."

The district, he said, was aggressive in putting forward a request for the funds.

"The timing is perfect," he added.

The first of the two bond measures, a $47.7 million request, would fund the construction of a new classroom building as well as several renovations and improvement projects. The second measure would pay for a $3.5 million overhaul of the high school's track and field.

Ballots have been mailed to voters. They need to be postmarked by Feb. 8.

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