Author Archives: CASH Staff

Why is state being so stingy on school bonds?

Following is a published opinion editorial that was in the Sacramento Bee on August 23, 2017.  This states the CASH position on selling school bonds.

BY DON ULRICH AND LISA GONZALES

Special to The Bee

AUGUST 22, 2017 1:00 PM

Major school construction projects require vision and patience to plan and appropriately budget, but pay off in student performance and teacher job satisfaction. Typically, school districts invest years in planning and in raising the funds to pay for them.

So the state’s decision to sell a minimal amount this fall of school bonds – which provide a significant portion of funding for most school construction projects – is disappointing.

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State Allocation Board Approves Career Technical Education Facilities Program & Bond Sale Information

Today the State Allocation Board met to hear and take action on a number of items, including three school district appeals and regulations to establish new funding cycles for the Career Technical Education Facilities Program (CTEFP).  An item proposing regulatory amendments to new construction application processing was originally agendized but subsequently pulled from consideration at today’s meeting.

Executive Officer Statement: Fall GO BondSale
During the Executive Officer statement, Lisa Silverman indicated that the fall General Obligation bond sale will take place on August 29, 2017.  The recent priority funding filing period closed on June 8, 2017, and the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) received requests for 139 projects from 73 districts worth a total of $443.6 million.  Ms. Silverman reported that she anticipates receiving bond proceeds from the August 29 sale to cover the projects that submitted a certification in the recent filing period.  She stated that the SAB meeting originally scheduled for September 23 has been moved up to September 6, 2017 to take action on the projects that submitted a certification in the recent priority funding round.

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Senator Pat Bates on Selling State Bonds for Schools

Following is a Facebook post from Senator Pat Bates.

Last November, California’s voters authorized the state to sell $9 billion in school construction bonds (Prop. 51). However, the state has only authorized $400 million in 2017. That’s less than 5 percent of what voters approved and is woefully inadequate.

Some of the projects waiting for funds in Orange and San Diego counties date back to 2013. Further delays would mean that some of these projects may not begin for a few more years.

I stand with school officials, teachers and parents throughout the state in asking the Governor’s administration to act with more urgency in regards to these bonds. Click on the link below to learn more.

Why is state being so stingy on school bonds?

Voters approved Proposition 51 last November, authorizing the state to sell $9 billion in school construction bonds. However, the state has only authorized a bond sale for about $400 million in 2017. School officials will rally at the state…

sacbee.com

Quarterly Message from the Chair – July 2017

July 21, 2017

Sell Proposition 51 Bonds Now – California’s Students Can’t Wait 

Since its establishment in 1980, CASH’s primary mission has been to ensure that all of California’s students have access to schools that are clean, safe, and healthy, with classrooms that are integral to teaching and learning. We believe that quality learning facilities have a significant impact on student learning and success. This is why we have sponsored every California statewide school bond since 1982. This is also why CASH fought so hard for the passage of Proposition 51. Now we are fighting to ensure that Proposition 51 resources build local community schools – sooner rather than later.

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CASH Legislative Update

July 13, 2017

Friday, July 15 is the last day for policy committees to hear and refer bills to fiscal committees. This is a key deadline because bills that are held in policy committees are effectively dead for this year, and bills that are approved and move onto the fiscal committees can continue to move through the legislative process. Below are status updates on bills of concern to the organization that CASH advocates have been actively engaged on. Thematically, these bills reflect two issue areas that have dominated school facility legislation this year – local bond accountability and transparency, and the lead content of water in schools. CASH is pleased to have helped improve some bills and helped block others that could not be improved. The Legislature convenes summer recess on Friday, July 21 and returns on Monday, August 21  to finish its business for 2017.

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July Facility Planners Update

July 10, 2017

The CASH Facility Planners Meeting Update for July 2017 is now available and includes information regarding:

  • State Allocation Board Update
  • 2017-18 Budget: School Facility Trailer Bills
  • Legislative Update
  • Upcoming Networking Mixers

Click here to download the Update.

~ CASH Staff

State Allocation Board Update

June 28, 2017

On Wednesday, June 28, the State Allocation Board (SAB) met to hear issues related to actions taken at their meeting on June 5, 2017 (approval of “Option 1”).  Specifically, under Action Items, the agenda included “Regulatory Amendments for Increased Program Accountability” and “Regulatory Amendments for the Financial Hardship Program.” Under Informational Items, the agenda included “School Facility Program Application Processing.”  The following is a summary of each agenda item. Continue reading

Governor Signs Budget

June 27, 2017

Today the Governor Signed AB 97, the budget bill for FY 2017-18, as well as the related trailer bills to enact policy changes in the budget. Below is an update on a number of key school facility policy issues that are addressed in budget trailer bills.

SB 96: Department of Industrial Relations

Makes changes to the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) prevailing wage monitoring program, including:

  • Raises the threshold for the program’s applicability from $1,000 to $25,000 for construction projects and $15,000 for maintenance projects.
  • Increases penalties for contractors and subcontractors who fail to register correctly.
  • Creates new penalties for awarding bodies, including school districts, who would be subject to a fine of $100 per day, up to $10,000.
  • An awarding body determined to be a “willful violator” with two program violations within 12 months could lose state facility funding for one year.
  • Increases the annual contractor registration fee from $300 to $400 and permits a contractor to register for multiple years at a time.

The budget also includes $805,000 in 2017-18 and $759,000 in 2018-19 for positions to educate awarding bodies about their requirements under the law.

AB 111: DSA Filing Fee

Increases Division of the State Architect (DSA) project filing fees for construction or alteration of school buildings. The fee will increase from 0.7% to 1.25% for the first $1 million in construction costs, and from 0.6% to 1.0% for costs in excess of $1 million. If the balance in the Public School Planning, Design, and Construction Review Revolving Fund exceeds six months of expenditures, the fee will automatically decrease.

AB 99: School Facility Program Audits

Includes the School Facility Program (SFP) audit changes, adding state-funded school facility project scope to the local annual K-12 audit. CASH successfully lobbied for amendments to the bill to provide school districts with the flexibility to use capital funds or operational dollars to repay any expenditures deemed ineligible. The original proposal from the Administration would have required automatic payback of audit exceptions using a withholding from the next Proposition 98 apportionment. The new audit provisions apply to SFP projects funded on and after April 1, 2017.

AB 99 & AB 125: Proposition 39 – Encumbrance Date and Program Extension

Includes provisions related to the Proposition 39 energy efficiency program. The bill extends the encumbrance date for projects by 12 months to June 30, 2019. The Legislature is now considering an additional trailer bill that includes the provisions of SB 518 (De Leon) to extend the Proposition 39 program indefinitely. Identical language is reflected in both AB 125 and SB 110, and either bill could move forward. These bills extend the sunset on the Proposition 39 program indefinitely, though future funding is subject to an appropriation in the annual budget process. The bills would establish a new competitive grant framework for allocation of the dollars. The bills would also sweep remaining unallocated funds from the first five years of the program for projects that have not submitted an Energy Expenditure Plan (EEP) by March 1, 2018. These funds would be dispersed as follows:

  • $75 million for a school bus retrofit and replacement program to be administered by the California Energy Commission.
  • $100 million for low- and no-interest Energy Conservation Assistance Act (ECAA) loans.
  • The remainder would be used for competitive grants for K-12 schools in designated tiers.

Passage of AB 125 or SB 110 would make SB 518 obsolete. Budget trailer bills are urgency statutes that are effective immediately upon signature and require only a majority vote to pass, in contrast to a typical urgency bill, which requires a two-thirds vote. Trailer bills are not subject to the June 15 budget bill deadline. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, the author of SB 518, appears very interested in moving this issue through the legislative process via trailer bill.

~ CASH Staff

Bond Accountability: How to Make it an Everyday Thing

June 22, 2017

The following is being shared as a courtesy to our members from the California Debt & Investment Advisory Commission (CDIAC).

In compliance with federal and state legislation, California public agencies are expected to establish and maintain internal control systems to account for and report on the expenditure of funds. There is an abundance of resources available to administrators that provide guidance on the development of internal control systems. [1] When applied consistently and correctly these controls can provide both the agency and the public an assurance that the funds are being properly managed and accounted for.

That being said, not all agencies apply the same system of controls they may have developed to manage general governmental funds to their bond funds. Even if they do, the system of controls used to account for and report on bond expenditures may not be fully integrated into the agency’s administrative structure even though doing so may ensure it is consistently applied.

This article is designed to provide readers a framework to understand internal control systems as they apply to bond funds and then, more importantly, present ways to bridge the gaps that often exist between a preexisting control system and the ongoing administration of bond funds.

Fundamentals of an Internal Control System

In December 2015 the Task Force on Bond Accountability released its Final Report summarizing its efforts to develop best practice guidelines on the fiduciary care and use of state and local bond proceeds. [2] The guideline adhered to the COSO framework for internal controls provided in the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Green Book. This consists of five elements:

Control Environment–An agency’s control environment represents the formal structures, goals, and objectives that form an internal control system. This includes the personnel–elected or appointed, the policies and procedures directing their activities in support of the control system, and the authority provided to those with oversight roles, including external bond oversight committees.

Risk Assessment–Within the context of a bond program, risk assessment is the process of identifying objectives and assessing the likelihood that risk events will occur and unfavorably affect the agency’s achievement of those objectives. The assessment of risk provides the basis for developing appropriate measures to manage risk.

Control Activities–Control activities are the actions the public agency takes through policies, procedures, and the delegation of duties to achieve its objectives and mitigate risk. The system of internal controls may vary, depending on the size, nature, and organizational complexity of the agency, but it must address the identified risks.

Information and Communications–As guardians of public funds, public agencies have a fiduciary responsibility to adopt a system of internal controls that provides a reasonable assurance that the agency is properly receiving, managing, and disbursing bond funds. Information and communication facilitates accountability and performance tracking.

Monitoring–The effectiveness of any set of internal controls is a function of its ability to mitigate risk. Since risks and program activities change over time, the internal control system must be dynamic, able to respond to changing requirements, staffing, and agency objectives. By monitoring the effectiveness of the control system, agencies can more readily adjust to these changing conditions.

Making the Control System part of the Agency’s DNA

An agency’s control system is effective only if it is consistently and universally employed. Agencies can ensure that this happens by operationalizing the control system in: 1) the agency’s plans, policies, and procedures; 2) the controlling bond documents; and 3) staff training.

Plan, Policies, and Procedures—Public agencies are guided by a number of plans, policies, and procedures when issuing and administering debt. These include a debt policy, investment policy, disclosure policy, as well as a capital improvement or facility management plan. These may be used to express elements of the control system to increase the likelihood that they will be carried out. Debt policies that call out the uses of debt, the types and terms of a debt issue, the responsibilities of the agency and staff for ongoing reporting and disclosure, the administration of debt-related payments, the uses to which the proceeds may be spent, can drive specific control activities.

Administrative policies and procedures often spell out the separation of duties between staff as well as procedures, timelines, and schedules to process specific actions. With regard to the disbursement of bond funds, for example, the agency’s policies and procedures may identify nonconforming transactions or exceptions that warrant immediate action, such as errors and discrepancies or changes in the payee name designation.

As funds are disbursed, policies and procedures may require staff to review expenditure plans, to seek legal review of contracts and agreements, to conduct site visits, and to maintain records of assets or portions of assets being financed. They may additionally set forth the content and timing of reports provided to any oversight committee or community interest groups.

Controlling Bond Documents—To strengthen compliance with policies and procedures, public agencies should integrate elements of the control system into bond documents. These include, among others, the indenture, the trust agreement, the tax certificate, the continuing disclosure agreement, and any agreements with insurers or other credit providers. The process must begin during the pre-issuance phase, during which the agency should account for all documents that will direct the roles and activities governing the investment and administration of bond funds and ongoing reporting and compliance.

Elements of the control system correspond to the specific content of most indentures, making linking the two fairly straightforward. For example, the typical indenture addresses the structure of accounts used to receive bond funds, the “waterfall” of revenues and payments, covenant restrictions, reserve maintenance and security, requirements for the disbursement of construction funds, and the terms for the trustee to safeguard and release funds. Each of these fits nicely into one or more control activities. Likewise, the trustee agreement contains terms that address financial and administrative management. Seeing that it contains language the clarifies the trustee’s role as a fiduciary when holding and investing bond funds, guaranteeing reserve requirements, monitoring bond covenants, and maintaining current balances on bond funds increases the likelihood that the agency’s control system is active and not reactive.

Agencies can use the tax certificate to establish and test control procedures to validate expenditures, including requirements for the use of proceeds, the timing of disbursement, requirements and limitations on the use of construction funds, private use restrictions, and, of course, the timing of arbitrage and yield restriction filings.

Finally, the continuing disclosure agreement provides the framework for ongoing reporting to investors and regulatory agencies and, in so doing, establishes measures to assess compliance and avoid problems. The agreement, in most cases, addresses filing requirements, the materials to be included, and the dates of submission.

Ongoing Staff Training—Public agencies can better ensure that their control system are active and employed by staff by providing training and communicating plans, policies, and procedures. Training should be provided to members of the governing body and oversight committees as well as service providers, such as auditors, who may need insights into the agency’s control system in order to perform their duties. Some agencies may need more frequent training on one or more elements of the control system. For example, agencies that use a conduit financing structure, may decide to train staff on control activities addressing expenditures and to review and update the training program to reflect improvements or changes in the control system.

Final Thoughts

Issuers enhance the expectation that they will timely and fully meet their repayment obligations through the development and application of a well-designed internal control system that tracks, monitors, and reports on the use of bond funds. Once adopted, however, issuers must take steps to institutionalize these control measures. If the agencies control system is integrated into and supported by its plans, policies, and procedures and expressed in controlling bond documents it is more likely to be applied. Furthermore, education and communication are the cornerstones of effective administrative processes. Agencies that undertake the work to articulate their control system in this manner and to train staff will undoubtedly derive material benefits in the form of better financing terms.

CDIAC has an upcoming seminar on ongoing bond administration on September 6th in Sacramento. Registration is available on CDIAC website: www.treasurer.ca.gov/cdiac.

[1] For information on establishing and implementing internal controls, see Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Sept. 2014, available at http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665712.pdf, hereafter GAO Standards for Internal Control (“Green Book”); see also Gauthier, Stephen J., An Elected Official’s Guide: Internal Control, Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), 2015, and Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013), Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), May 14, 2013.

[2] Task Force on Bond Accountability, Task Force Final Report, December 14, 2015 available at http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/tfba/final_report.pdf.