published Monday, February 8th, 2010

County bond funds not coming for 3, 4 years


by Matt Wilson
Audio clip

Claude Ramsey

Hamilton County agencies, including Hamilton County Schools, will have to wait another three to four years before money will be available for new buildings, officials said.

"You build buildings and do capital projects as you can afford to do them," County Mayor Claude Ramsey said. "Right now, that's the projections we have."

County Finance Administrator Louis Wright said "it will probably be somewhere in the vicinity of 2013 or 2014 before we issue again." He said that means no new buildings "other than the stuff we've already funded," which includes the new Red Bank Middle School.

Mr. Wright said he could not predict an exact date when the county once again could issue bonds because there are "too many variables" that could affect the timing. One of those variables, for instance, involves the fixed interest rate for the county's commercial paper, which will be set no earlier than next year.

The county issues 15-year debt on its bonds, Mr. Wright said, which means it reaches maturity after seven and a half years. The last such bond issue was in March 2009.

As of June 30, the county had just over $257 million in outstanding debt.

Gary Waters, the school system's superintendent for auxiliary services, said the schools are soon to begin some "preliminary planning" for new building projects but understands the county's funding restraints.

SCHOOL BUILDING PLAN

Hamilton County schools officials plan to consolidate:

* Falling Water Elementary

* Ganns Middle Valley Elementary

* Alpine Crest Elementary

* Dupont Elementary

* Rivermont Elementary

* Harrison Elementary

* Hillcrest Elementary

"The funding is always an issue for the County Commission," he said.

Local school officials last year presented the county school board with a $150 million plan to consolidate and build a long list of schools. There was no timeline attached a timeline to the plan.

Mr. Waters said the school system should have a recommendation regarding the plan by late spring.

Commissioner Richard Casavant, chairman of the commission's Building and Economic Development Committee, said it's unlikely commissioners will find places in the budget to carve out funds for buildings.

"A lot of things are on hold because of lack of money," he said.

Dr. Casavant said there definitely are building projects in the county worth carrying out. He and other commissioners often have argued that some of the older county office buildings should be torn down and replaced.

Dr. Casavant said Hamilton County is in a good position, however, in that its bonds are financed in such a way that they can be paid off "quickly and conservatively."

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catfancier53 said...

We don't need new schools: we need to fix up the ones we have, and fill up the ones that sit half-empty. For example: the roof at Central High is full of holes: the waterlogged ceilings are falling in, and many rooms receive water damage whenever there is rain or snow. Several computers and library books have been ruined. The hallways are freezing because the heat is out in large sections of the building. Central has four portable classrooms, yet Tyner High sits half-empty. How much sense does it make to build brand-new schools and let the ones you already have fall into disrepair?

February 8, 2010 at 1:04 p.m.
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