TOPEKA — School districts, contractors and investment bankers argued Wednesday for repeal of a cap on issuance of revenue bonds that was crafted by House and Senate negotiators in the final hours of the 2017 legislative session.
House Bill 2636 would eliminate a provision in state law prohibiting Kansas public school districts from issuing bond debt in excess of the amount of debt retired by districts statewide in the previous year.
Rep. Ed Trimmer, a Democrat from Winfield, was on last year’s House-Senate conference committee that came up with the bonding limitation. He disapproved of legislative maneuvering that produced the cap.
“It was one of those issues where sometimes things get put in conference committee that shouldn’t be, and I think it lacked transparency,” Trimmer said.
Proponents of the House bill, such as G.A. Buie, the executive director of United School Administrators of Kansas, argued that the cap on bonds hurt growing school districts and impeded the bond application process. Bond issues affected by this cap are often used by school districts to build new schools and renovate existing facilities.
“Those facilities are not needed in four, five, six years. Oftentimes they’re needed now, and if they have to jump in line to get those bond issues passed, it’s going to create issues,” Buie said.
Roger Edgar, executive vice president of George K. Baum and Company, said these projects are designed to increase safety through storm shelters and security measures while boosting the local economy.
“Addressing safety is the highest priority of every project that we’ve worked on for many years,” Edgar said.
Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, argued that a cap on bond issues was still necessary to prevent “taxation without representation” and to limit debt.
“The dramatic growth in state matching funds associated with many bond issues diverts money that could be used for instruction,” Trabert said.
Rep. Fred Patton, a Topeka Republican and chairman of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee, said he believed the issue needed consideration but wasn’t sure he would support a repeal of the cap in its current form.
“From a state level, it’s important that we are able to control and predict what spending is going to be,” Patton said.
Patton, president of the Topeka Seaman Board of Education, said he hopes to have a committee vote on the bill next week.