Lower rate on school bond to save Rhea County almost $5 million

Lower rate on school bond to save Rhea County almost $5 million

December 10th, 2011 By Tom Davis/Correspondent in News

Jerry Levengood, the director of schools in Rhea County, Tenn.

DAYTON, Tenn. - A favorable credit rating has produced a better-than-expected interest rate for Rhea County's school construction bond issue, saving about $4.8 million, officials said.

Finance Director Bill Graham said Thursday that the $33 million bond issue to finance construction of the new Rhea County High School was sold to UBS Securities at an interest rate of 3.8188 percent, instead of the 4.5 percent the county's financial adviser had estimated.

Over the 23-year life of the bond issue, the savings could exceed the $4.8 million based on future steps the county could consider, he said.

In a related matter, board members approved a resolution authorizing the county to apply for federal "E-Rate" funds to cover 84 percent of the cost to install communication and Internet-related equipment and wiring at the new school.

The cost to the county to cover the remaining portion of that expense is estimated at up to $200,000, Superintendent Jerry Levengood said. That money is included in the county bond issue.

In other matters, Levengood said the county has received a "real good report card" from its annual state evaluation. He said he particularly is pleased with the reported 89.3 percent high school graduation rate, up from 54 percent 12 years ago when he became principal of Rhea County High School.

Levengood also reported on a meeting this week involving teachers, administrators, representatives of the state Department of Education and state Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, chairman of the House Education Committee, concerning the new teacher evaluation program.

School board member John Mincy said he believes the state officials "left it up to the school systems to come up with a system that works."

Board Chairman B.J. McCoy said officials acknowledged the new system was implemented wrongly.

Bill Davault, another board member, said officials "are looking for something to advance education in Tennessee but are putting all their eggs in the basket of evaluation."

Board members also approved a resolution allowing Dayton to extend a 12-inch waterline along the site of Rhea Central Elementary School to serve the city's utility expansion to Dayton Mountain. The city will install more hydrants to serve the school, Levengood said.

Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Email him at tsdavis@volstate.net.