ROWLAND HEIGHTS - Setting money aside for a rainy day paid off big time for the Rowland Unified School District.

Due to the district's good credit rating, Rowland Unified will save $2.4 million in interest payments on bonds it sold last week, according to district officials.

The district recently padded its reserve with workers compensation insurance credits and one-time payments from the state, said Nonette Martin, Rowland Unified's director of fiscal services.

Due to the increased savings, Rowland Unified's bond rating was upgraded from A+ to AA- by Standard & Poor's, a national rating agency. The district has the second-highest rating, officials said.

The increase allowed the district to sell $45 million in bonds at a lower rate - 5.96 percent - last week.

"It saves the property tax payer over time quite a bit of money on this debt," Martin said

The $45 million was part of the $118 million school improvement bond Measure R, which was passed in 2006.

At a time when financial hardships have affected districts across the state, it shows potential investors that the district is financially stable, while giving taxpayers a break, Martin said.

She said the full bond will reach maturity by 2042.

"The district has had a very stable history of leadership at the board level and at the superintendent level," Superintendent Maria Ott said. "When you go through the credit rating process, they

look at that kind of leadership and stability and being able to make the tough decisions."

School board president Robert Hidalgo said the governing body has been forced to make many difficult decisions, such as cutting out conferences and other miscellaneous costs. He also said the donation of $2 million over the past three years by The Ball Foundation and The Cotsen Family Foundation have helped to offset costs.

"They've been able to help pay for a lot of our professional development, and because of that, it's allowed us to keep some of that money in reserves. That's been a crucial element to being financially stable," he said.

Measure R will pay for modernization and renovation at the district's elementary, middle and high schools.

Nogales and Rowland high schools gained brand new stadiums, eight elementary schools received new libraries and an auto shop was constructed at Nogales High, which is set to be completed in the next couple of weeks.

A state-of-the-art culinary facility is also planned for Rowland High School next fall.

maritza.velazquez@sgvn.com

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