Coffman to watch St. Vrain next year

By John Fryar
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — State Treasurer Mike Coffman will maintain his financial oversight of the St. Vrain Valley School District for the coming year, he announced Wednesday.

Technically, the financial-recovery plan that Coffman imposed on St. Vrain last winter will be satisfied if the school district can repay money it borrowed from the state’s interest-free loan program by June 25, five days before the end of the 2002-03 fiscal year.

“The way it was written, when the loans are repaid, they’re out from under the financial-recovery plan,” Coffman said. “However, I am concerned that $5 million of that repayment is coming from the sale of district property to the state.”

Under a new state law, school districts can sell buildings or other properties to the state treasurer or a private financial institution and use the money to cover operating shortfalls. They can then regain ownership through lease-purchase payments over a one-year period.

However, under that bill, sponsored by Boulder Democrats Sen. Ron Tupa and Rep. Jack Pommer, Coffman has to sign off on such an arrangement regardless of whether it is with the state or a private institution.

Coffman said that as a condition of St. Vrain’s lease-purchase agreement, he’ll keep in place the financial controls he originally required as part of the district’s financial recovery. He said the attorney general’s office says he has the authority to require that condition before entering into the lease-purchase plan with the district.

“Not that there’s any probability that they’re going to default,” he said. “I think they’re on the straight and narrow.”

Mark Pillmore, CFO for the St. Vrain Valley School District, said at the Wednesday night school board meeting that, “we are on track with the budget and the plan the state treasurer formulated with us.” He added that the 2004 budget includes the necessary appropriations to repay its lease-purchase payments. “I see no reason why we can’t meet that.”

Kathy Hall, president of the St. Vrain Valley Board of Education, agreed, saying that “we have a contract with the treasurer, and we are going to hold up our end of that contract. I don’t know why (Coffman) felt the need to do this.” She added that the district will make its payments on time and when the debt is paid off, hopefully Coffman will discontinue his oversight of the district.

But the state treasurer said if the district fails to make its lease-purchase payments, he “will be forced to sell those buildings to recover the state’s money. That is a situation neither the school district nor I would like to face. ...

“I need to keep the district operating under a financial-recovery plan until they can repurchase their properties back from the state.”

Coffman said while the district has succeeded in making dramatic without affecting class sizes or hurting students.

“I want to make sure that we stay on that course until the state is completely paid back and this district’s budget is balanced,” Coffman said. “Until those things occur, I will watch over the situation.”

Coffman said that if all goes as planned, he will relinquish financial control of the district in June 2004, after St. Vrain makes its final lease-purchase payment and the state transfers the properties back to the district.

John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at jfryar@times-call.com.


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