Tax rate hike looms for new high school

Published 9:49 am Thursday, June 28, 2012

WINDSOR – Before citizens had an opportunity to speak at a public hearing here Monday, they heard the updated costs of a new high school.

“We called this meeting so we could hear from you, the citizens of Bertie County, to help us with the decisions that are going to have to be made in regard to this new project,” Commission Chairman L.C. Hoggard III said.

The chairman asked speakers to limit their comments to three minutes if possible and to give their names and addresses for the record.

Bertie County Manager Morris Rascoe introduced Ted Cole of Davenport and Associates to talk about the actual cost of funding the new school.

Cole said Davenport had updated the project cost.

“The number we have come up with for total funding is $20.4 million,” Cole said.

He said that number consists of $18.2 million for construction costs, $300,000 for contingency, $300,000 for furniture, $910,000 for soft costs and $700,000 for financing costs.

Cole reminded the board there was approximately $18 million available to the district in Qualified School Construction Bonds. He said those bonds would be issued through a public market sale.

He further discussed a pair of funding options and their impact on the Bertie County tax rate.

The first option would be to pay back the borrowed money on a more rapid basis and thereby save approximately $1.1 million in interest.

“The impact associated with that scenario beginning in Fiscal Year 2014… would be the equivalent of approximately 12 cents on the county tax rate if each penny generates $103,000,” Cole said. “Fiscal 2014, the equivalent of 12 cents and Fiscal 2015, an additional one penny for a total of right about 13 cents for this entire financing, the debt associated with it.”

He said operating costs of the facility is not included in the estimate.

“We do have some flexibility in the way we structure this debt and we can ramp up the debt in a more gradual way and minimize what has to be paid in the early years,” Cole said. “That does come at a cost. On the same 20-year term, if you ramp up the debt and grow into it, if you will, you will likely occur additional interest expense over the life of the loan and based on our estimates it would be about $1.1 million in interest you would pay over 20 years.”

He said rather than having 12 cents on the tax rate in Fiscal Year 14, it would be seven cents. The next year it would take about 1.5 cents to reach the debt.

“That’s kind of the range you’re dealing with – somewhere between eight and 13 cents,” Cole said. “There are any number of scenarios you can get to in between and these impacts would occur largely in Fiscal 14. Either of these scenarios, we feel would meet with Local Government Commission approval.”

Cole said when the information is taken to the LGC, the county will have to give a plan of how they will take on the additional debt service including tax rates increases, usage of funds from fund balance or a combination.

Commissioner Rick Harrell asked Cole if the tax increases were based on the county’s current tax rate of .78 per $100 valuation.

“The current tax rate does not really play into our discussion,” Cole said. “What we have assumed is that you all will continue to pay the debt service that is on the books today and you’re making about a $375,000 contribution to the schools for capital.”

Cole said they assumed the board would continue to fund at those levels and then add the tax rate that is necessary to pay for the debt service on the new high school.

He then went over the process of moving to the LGC for approval. He said that total process would take approximately 60 days.