The Norman Transcript

May 3, 2013

Norman school district considers bond issue

By Andy Rieger
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman Public School officials are planning another major bond issue, perhaps as large as the $110 million, five-year package voters approved in 2009, a school administrator told the Norman Economic Development Coalition economic summit Thursday morning.

“We’re working on another bond issue,” Roger Brown told business leaders at Embassy Suites. “We have done great things, but we’re not finished.”

Brown said the new proposal will likely be $110 million to $115 million. The 2009 bond issue, the largest in the district’s history, funded 45 construction projects and nearly $14 million in technology upgrades. All of the projects should be completed this year, he said.

He encouraged the business men and women to visit Reagan Elementary on 24th Avenue SE, Norman’s 17th elementary school. He said it was a modern, secure school. “It’s an example of where we’re headed,” he said.

Brown was one of six community leaders who gave brief remarks Thursday. Also speaking were City Manager Steve Lewis, Norman Regional Hospital trust authority chair Robin Wiens, University of Oklahoma Vice President Daniel Pullen, Moore-Norman Technology Center Superintendent Jane Bowen and NEDC Executive Director Don Wood.

Brown said Norman schools receive less state money for operations than they did in 2007. The district has higher fixed costs and more students. The district has about 15,000 students and is growing at about 300 students a year.

Pullin, OU’s vice president of strategic planning and economic development, discussed the university’s efforts to grow and diversify the state’s economic future. He said the university has intensified efforts to commercialize faculty and student inventions with hopes of keeping those jobs in state.

Lewis detailed the city’s residential and commercial growth and ongoing challenges regarding the quality and quantity of water available. He said by 2060, the city could fall 20 million gallons of water short each day.

“Our goal is to come up with a long-term plan that is both robust and economical that will meet the needs of our citizens,” he said.

Wiens said the hospital’s 2,800 employees are continually navigating the changing health care environment. The new watchwords in health care, she said, are cost containment, doing better with less and quality improvement.

Bowen said Moore-Norman graduates contribute $104 million annually to the economy.

“Beyond the numbers, people’s lives are changed at Moore-Norman,” she said.

She said the school’s two campuses served more than 60,000 students and 528 businesses last year. Ninety-two percent of their students are employed or going on to continuing education.

Wood, whose organization put the summit together, said Norman has about 57,000 workers in the labor force, with an average annual net growth rate of 2.5 percent.

“We will have 20 percent growth over the next 10 years if we stay on the same trajectory,” Wood said. “We’re not seeing the recession effects that have occurred in other parts of the country because of the diversity of our economy.”

Wood said the city is a finalist for four projects, including one where he will make a presentation next week.