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Portion of PCC bonds now on sale via Merrill Lynch
Photos and Story by James Hill
The finance wing of Portland Community College has announced that bonds related to its $374 million bond measure now are on sale to the public.
The college sold $200 million of general obligation bonds on Thursday, March 19, via a competitive sale. Rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have rated the PCC bonds Aa2 and AA, respectively. The winning bidder is Merrill Lynch & Co.
The college’s bonds may be available for purchase; parties interested in purchasing the bonds should contact Merrill Lynch or their investment broker. The $200 million would provide enough funds to pay for projects that will take place over the next three years. PCC expects to issue the remaining amount in two or three years to fund the rest of the projects.
Voters in the college’s five-county region passed the November bond measure with a 53 percent “yes” vote. The cost of the PCC bond to in-district homeowners is small. The maximum a property owner will pay is an estimated 32.9 cents per $1,000 assessed value. For the owner of a home assessed at $178,000, that is less than $5 per month or less than $60 per year.
“As the economy continues to struggle and the credit markets have shown some signs of thawing, time is of the essence to start the sale of the bonds,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams. “We need to improve and expand our facilities to accommodate our growth as people turn to PCC to improve their education or retrain into a new career.”
The news comes none to soon as PCC, along with community colleges statewide, is experiencing big enrollment growth due to the economic conditions. For the sixth straight term, the largest educational institution in Oregon grew in total headcount and full-time equivalent students, according to winter term enrollment figures. Overall, the college grew by 4.2 percent in total headcount and 11.4 percent in full-time equivalent (FTE) students after the end of the fourth week – the standard week for reporting enrollment figures.
With the bond money, PCC will expand workforce training at every campus, update equipment and technology for job training and serve more students throughout the district. In addition, the bond will modernize the technology infrastructure to increase distance learning opportunities, and increase the capacity of student services, like child care, to develop more consistent access across the campuses. For example, of the thousands of low-income students eligible for the Pell grant, 40 percent also are parents, yet only one campus has a comprehensive child-care center.
There will be opportunities in the months to come for the community to get involved in the decision-making process on the bond planning. PCC leaders plan to create district-wide committees as well as campus-centric work groups.