School board approves refinancing of $5.95 million in bonds

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cape Girardeau school board members expected to only hear a presentation about bonds and the possibility of refinancing at their regular meeting Monday night.

But they discovered late in the afternoon that interest rates had dropped so low it was in their best interest to act quickly.

The board unanimously approved the refinancing of $5.95 million in bonds, which is expected to save the district $978,670. Interest rates on the bonds, issued in 1998 with a call date of March 1 of this year, will be lowered from 4.54 percent to 2.79 percent. The bond series will be paid off two years early, in 2015.

The move allows the district to potentially place a no-tax bond issue of $21 million on the April 2009 ballot. Board members are currently planning a five-year facilities plan and are meeting with administrators to prioritize projects.

Building a sports stadium or performing arts auditorium, remodeling the junior high, adding classrooms to the high school, or renovating Franklin Elementary are all options being discussed by the board.

The board last refinanced bonds in 2004 and 2005, saving $2.03 million. The district currently has $12.27 million restricted in its debt service fund to pay off those bonds when they are callable in 2010. There is about $3.1 million in the fund that is unrestricted.

The district's current debt service tax levy is $0.5924 per $100 assessed valuation. Heather Mudd, the vice president of L.J. Hart, the refinancing underwriter, said districts must lower their levy when balances exceed what is necessary for one year of payments. By paying the bonds early, the district will not be forced to lower the levy dedicated to debt service this summer.

Also at the meeting the city's Parks and Recreation Department discussed its sales-tax campaign. If approved in April, the tax would raise $25 million for improvements, including upgrades to Central Municipal Pool, better known as the Bubble, which the school district jointly operates with the city.

Danny Essner, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said the city council is expecting the school district will split the $1.5 million bill.

"We do not have a problem taking an IOU from the school district," however, Essner said.

Plans call for renovating the bathhouse with new tiling, replacing the bubble and an air filtering system, and expanding the concession stand.

Board member Tom Reinagel said the district was aware the bubble would have to be replaced in the near future, although Pat Morgan, director of administrative services, said the cost of replacing the bubble presented Monday is double what the district had earlier estimated.

Kyle McDonald questioned director of Parks and Recreation Dan Muser's statement that it would have cost $5.9 million to replace the bubble with a more permanent structure.

Muser pointed out that the municipal pool only one of a handful in the state that is Olympic-sized, making it more costly to enclose. He said that even if the tax is not approved, improvements will still be necessary.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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