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|Refinancing to save $1.3 million|
The Ouachita Parish School Board will refinance its bonded indebtedness for western Ouachita schools and save the school system roughly $1.3 million.
The $1.3 million in savings over the life of the bonds would save Ouachita Parish Schools $100,000 annually.
The $100,000 annual savings could be utilized for any purpose authorized by western Ouachita voters regarding the use of the money, which is generated by a 1-cent sales tax levied in western Ouachita Parish, said Grant Schlueter. Schlueter, of the law firm Foley and Judell of New Orleans, is the parish school system's bond attorney.
According to Schlueter, the school board typically refinances its bonds whenever a possibility exists to save the school system money. The law firm is paid each time the parish school system refinances its bonded indebtedness.
Schlueter visited with the school board Tuesday during its regular meeting.
"When we refund general obligation bonds, the savings go to the property taxpayers, and when we refinance sales tax bonds, that frees up additional sales tax money for purposes authorized by the voters on projects the school board needs to do," Schlueter said. "I was beginning to wonder if we would ever get to this point where we had a successful refinancing of the sales tax bonds on the west side."
In December, the school board approved refinancing the $29.4 million in bonded indebtedness the parish school system owes for new school construction and remodeling projects at western Ouachita schools. Western Ouachita voters approved a 1-cent sales tax in the late 1990s to pay for the projects.
"In January 2008, we were at the point where we were ready to price the bonds to provide savings in the west district, but the market escaped us at that point in time," Schlueter said. "It was only recently that we resurrected this again when interest rates dropped. So, now we have had a successful pricing of that bond issue."
The school board asked Standard & Poor, a national bond rating agency, to upgrade the bond rating for bonded indebtedness the parish school system owes for western Ouachita projects.
The school board recently was given an AA- general obligation tax bond rating for the eastern school district after Standard & Poor's reviewed the financial operations at the parish school system.
"That is very significant because very few school boards are able to break into the double A category," Schlueter said. "The highest rating that any public body in Louisiana has been able to obtain is in the double A ratings."
After reviewing the school system's finances again, Standard & Poor's upgraded the western district's bond rating to AA-.
"This helped immeasurably during this refinancing," Schlueter explained. "It would have been very, very difficult to do this without that rating increase. So, now, both the east and the west have a very high credit rating, which is very good."