WINNSBORO — A $20 million bond resolution passed unanimously during the February meeting of the Fairfield County School Board.
Prior to its passage, board financial adviser Mike Gallagher and school board attorney Brent Jeffcoat gave an overview and update on the proposal for funding construction of a new career center.
Gallagher said that the $20 million would be added to the project fund, which would be keeping within the 8 percent debt limit of the district. The plan called for three bonds to be issued, with the likely option of a bond anticipatory note being added as the situation warrants.
The breakdown is as follows: a $4 million bond in 2013, in early March of 2014 a bond of approximately $4 million would be issued and a bond anticipatory note could be issued in 2015 to make additional capital from the $20 million available if more funds were needed at that time for the project.
For two years, the county mils would increase to 34 mils but after that time period he predicts the millage rate would settle down to about 24 mils. Gallagher said that $1.5 million is built into the $20 million that could be used for recurring expenses. Taxes would be raised on all taxable property.
J.R. Green, superintendent of the Fairfield County School District, wondered if the district had the option to pay off the remaining debt immediately if funds came about once the expanded nuclear facility came online.
“Absolutely,” Jeffcoat said. “The ($20 million bond) is something we know we can do (regardless of any changes from the nuclear plant revenue).”
That said, the plan did not box the district in should more revenue become available.
“If the schedule changes or we can take advantage of funds, we’ll do so,” he said.
Jeffcoat and Gallagher said their planning model also takes into account some flexibility to help prevent them having to come back and ask for more funds down the line if circumstances and revenue would change.
Jeffcoat also said that bond anticipatory notes could be used as necessary to provide access to cash at various stages in the building process.
“When the new reactors come online, we anticipate funding will be available to pay off the remaining debt. The board committed that if money is available, we will pay off the debt at that point,” Green said.
Bonds will be bid for publicly and be publicly sold.
Right now there are good interest rates, Jeffcoat said. Jeffcoat said that he and Gallagher would monitor changes in interest rates as the economy recovers. They might also offer the board periodic reports when the sale of bonds is going on, but for now this would be the last time they would come before the board to present the bond proposal.
Board member Annie McDaniel wondered why a $20 million bond package be needed if the cost was projected at between $15 million and $16 million for the career center facility.
Since the district would be at its debt limit, having the ability to access extra funding is needed so the district has the discretionary funds to pay to completely replace a damaged air conditioning unit or to reroof a school.
The $20 million bond proposal passed 7-0.
“This is a big day for Fairfield County and the Career and Technology Center,” said chairwoman Beth Reid, “and we appreciate (all) your efforts.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2014 with a proposed move-in date of July 2015. The general plan is for the career center building to be built on the campus between the high school and the middle school, which would make it more accessible to students. The center was determined a more feasible approach than the comprehensive high school that had been under consideration.
The board also addressed several personnel matters.
Kevin Robinson, Fairfield County School District director of finance, requested the board approve a retroactive pay increase from January for all certified deputies employed by the district as school resource officers. Currently the district employs three deputies and one supervisor.
The increase amounted to $960 per deputy per year, a comparable raise to what each of the Fairfield County Sheriff’s deputies received recently from the county. The motion passed unanimously.
The board also approved resignations of a certified teacher from the Fairfield Magnet School for Math and Science and an administrative resignation.
Green recommended, and the board decided 7-0 to accept, using Herb Contract Services to fill in for the remainder of the school year as the district works to hire a new human resource director. Green said that position is currently being advertised and they will be doing interviews within a few weeks but that several candidates they wish to contact currently are under contract in other districts.
Reid announced a few changes to upcoming school board meetings. The March school board meeting will be at McCrorey Liston Elementary at 6 p.m., but the April and May meetings will be held at the district office. Since it is budget season, the board thought it would be helpful to meet there where more materials would be available for reference if needed.
The meetings at the district office will have a schedule change. Executive session will occur at 6 p.m. with the regular meeting to follow promptly at 6:30 p.m. If more executive session time is needed, it could be added at the end of a meeting.
In her board chair report, Reid said that board travel needs should be addressed to ensure that the board does not abuse taxpayer funds in the process of attending conferences and training. Reports from the meetings will be added to the agenda.
McDaniel and Henry Miller gave a report on a national school board meeting they attended. McDaniel said that tough questions were asked of Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan. She said for board members to be mindful that he is a strong proponent of charter schools and that while the charter schools have a role to play in education, they take funds away from local school districts.
She also mentioned how grants to school districts could circumvent the power of local school boards. Miller said it was a good conference and that they spoke to an educational liaison for Congressman Mick Mulvaney since Congress was not in session.
School safety was discussed. McDaniel said they discussed safety funds to hire additional school resource officers and discussed funding and mental health initiatives to head off issues before tragedies occur.