The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 25, 2013

Local systems among 15 to receive BRAC funds

Athens to receive $2.7M, Limestone’s share $7.8M

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— The Athens and Limestone school systems have been approved for more than $10.5 million from the sale of bonds, Gov. Robert Bentley’s office announced Tuesday.

Fifteen school systems in North Alabama are set to receive proceeds from the sale of $172.7 million of capital improvement bonds by the Alabama Public School and College Authority.

The bond sale was conducted to assist the school systems with building new facilities and renovating existing facilities in areas impacted by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005, according to the Bentley’s office.

School systems have the option to decline the bond money, which must be used for capital improvement projects. Athens will receive $2.746,438, while Limestone’s share is $7,816,785.

School officials for both systems have been aware of the possibility of BRAC funding for at least several months. The Athens and Limestone superintendents confirmed Tuesday they intend to accept their full share of the bond money, which has a 20-year repayment term.

If a school system accepts the bond money, its school board must agree to pay 50 percent of the total future debt service, while the state will pay the remaining portion.

The bonds, which were sold in two series, have a true interest cost of 3.62 percent or 3.87 percent, according to the state Finance Department.

“We’re very pleased with the sale results and are excited to see the people of North Alabama benefiting from this funding for new school construction and renovation,” said Dr. Tommy Bice in a statement released Tuesday. “Given the natural inflation rate of construction costs and today’s ultra-low interest rate environment, there’s no better time to push forward with these projects.”

Limestone plans

In March, the Limestone County Board of Education approved a two-phase $26.1 million capital improvement plan. Board President Bret McGill said the BRAC funding was factored into the decision.

First-phase projects at Ardmore High School, Clements High School and Creekside Elementary School are in the preliminary stages. The Ardmore and Clements project bids are expected to be within budget or below budget, while the Creekside bids could be higher than originally anticipated, McGill said Tuesday.

The Ardmore bids will be opened Thursday, while the Clements and Creekside bids have not been finalized.

“We’re going to accept the full amount and we’ve had discussions with the board about the BRAC funding, which was figured into the capital plan,” said Dr. Tom Sisk, superintendent of Limestone County Schools. “The BRAC money has to be spent on bricks-and-mortar projects, and we’re going to spend more time discussing our options with the board. The original idea was to use (Limestone’s share) as part of the $26.1 million so that we end up only having to borrow about $22 million.”

Athens plans

The Athens school system plans to use its share for projects at Athens High School and and Athens Elementary School, said incoming Superintendent Trey Holladay, who will officially begin Monday.

“It’s almost bad business not to accept the money, which was set up as a bond and at a good rate,” said Holladay. “We’re going to use the money for the renovations going on at Athens High School, which is a substantial project, and we plan to use part of the money for the roof project at Athens Elementary School.”

Holladay, who has been in regular contact with Athens City Schools chief financial officer Barry Hamilton, said Hamilton and retiring Superintendent Dr. Orman Bridges already had prepared for the BRAC funding.

Holladay said he expects the funding to arrive within the next two to three weeks but he said an official arrival date has not been announced yet by the state.

The breakdown is as follows:

• Huntsville City – $64,743,531.60

• Madison County – $55,914,868.20

• Madison City – $26,485,990.20

• Limestone County – $7,816,785

• Decatur City – $3,660,873.90

• Morgan County – $3,328,067.20

• Athens City – $2,746,438

• Marshall County – $2,630,894.70

• Albertville City – $1,879,210.50

• Hartselle City – $1,331,226.90

• Arab City – $1,127,526.30

• Jackson County – $989,656.40

• Boaz City – $977,189.50

• Guntersville City – $902,021

• Scottsboro City – $465,720.60.