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— The Gentry Public School District School Board organized itself at Monday's meeting, appointing a new president, vice president and secretary.

With the election of David Williamson to a five-year at-large position on the board, replacing previous board member and board president Keith Harper, and with the re-election of Ted Dorn to the zone 4 position, the board reorganized itself and nominated and elected new officers for the year.

Jim Barnes was elected president; Coye Cripps, vice president; and Brenda Willett, secretary. Superintendent Dr. Randy Barrett was again appointed ex-officio fiscal and legal agent for the board, and Willett was appointed as the board's disbursement officer.

Bond restructuring documents from Stephens, Inc., were explained and adopted by the school board.

Stephen Hunt, senior vice president and manager for Stephens, Inc., told the board that three bids were received to refund the November 2004 bonds of $6.565 million, with the lowest interest rate received from Crews and Associates, Inc., - including all costs of the restructuring - of 4.133460 percent. The highest bid was 4.367445 percent.

The bids came in even lower than anticipated, Hunt told the board.

In a letter to Barrett, Hunt wrote that "the reduction in interest rates from the issuance of the refunding bonds will result in a total net savings to the District of $233,694.00 with $166,299.20 of the total savings being realized in the fiscal year 2009-2010."

The old interest rate on the 2004 bonds was 4.69 percent, according to Hunt, and that does not include the costs originally associated with obtaining the bonds.

The refunding of the 2004 bonds did not need voter approval since no extension of the bonds was requested and the restructuring resulted in a net savings to the district.

The lower than anticipated interest rate resulted in even more savings to the district. When the restructuring plan was originally presented, it was estimated that net savings would be $169,000. The $233,000 in savings resulted in $166,000 in savings for the current fiscal year - which much improves the district's financial situation and improves chances of soon being released from an in-fiscal-distress classification.

Barrett now projects the district will finish out the fiscal year with an ending balance of $1.9 million with the additional bond savings added. He reported an actual cash balance in the operating fund at the end of period 2 of the fiscal year ( after August 31) of $1,382,346.

Hunt will be returning to the October school board meeting with bids for the restructuring of 2003 bonds - a refunding and extension approved by voters on Sept. 15. He anticipated that interest rates would also be lower than originally anticipated, which could result in additional savings to the school district.

Also approved by voters was the conversion of 2.9 dedicated maintenance and operation mills to debt service / maintenance and operation mills, giving the district greater flexibility in using these funds.

In other business, the school board approved on a first reading, a policy change to increase the maximum number of foreign exchange students in the district from three to six. The proposed change was suggested by Cripps because of requests from parents in the district.

Other policy changes approved on a first reading were clarifications of existing policy required by the Arkansas Department of Education and recommended by campus principals.

News, Pages 1, 2 on 09/23/2009

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