$7 million ‘not a windfall’

Published 10:05 am Thursday, May 7, 2015

It’s not a windfall.

County Commissioner Mark Jones was adamant Monday evening while talking about the $7 million premium received when the county sold $54.5 million in bonds to build a new high school.

He was right.

But he couldn’t convince fellow county commissioners not to add the $7 million to the coffers to build the new school, which came in after bids were opened some 20 percent higher than that $54.5 million.

“The premium is not a windfall, it’s a payment back to us,” Jones said. “It is a difference in what they pay back to us to accommodate a higher interest rate. Historically, those dollars are used to go back against the debt.”

Not this time. Jones was the only commissioner to vote against adding the $7 million to the high school project.

County Manager Mike Ruffin said the $7 million could be used however the board decides.

Jones started his comments by asking County Manager Mike Ruffin if the schools had presented plans to scale back the project prior to the sale of the bonds. Ruffin said the schools had, one plan for $54.5 million and another for just over $60 million, in anticipation of receiving the premium.

Because the county didn’t roll back what it is borrowing or spend the money elsewhere, it is, in essence, paying the extra interest rate, Jones said.

That comment brought arguments from board chair Terry Renegar and member John Ferguson.

Had the voters not approved borrowing $54.5 million to build the school, the county would not be getting the $7 million premium, Renegar said.

Ferguson made a motion to approve adding the money to the project, with Richard Poindexter making the second.

“This puts us in a difficult position,” said Commissioner Dan Barrett. “Most folks thought we were financing $54.5 million … but we need to move forward. We need to be sensitive to how we communicate this.”

“The facts are the facts,” Jones said. “It’s not a windfall.”