Bond sale to cut costs

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Marshall County commissioners voted 15-2 Monday to borrow up to $2.4 million to refinance previous debt with a lower interest rate and borrow money for road repair and related expenses.

The resolution increasing the county's debt load replaced a $1 million bond resolution sought by Highway Superintendent Jerry Williams who's explained that without money for maintenance soon, the cost of repairing county roads will be greater.

Voting against the new bond sale were Commissioners Mickey King and Don Ledford.

"We don't have the money," Ledford said after the meeting on why he voted no, indicating concerns for the county's revenue stream.

"People are spending money like we have deep pockets," he said. "We don't. People should know that by now."

King, vice chairman of the Budget Committee, presented the resolution in the absence of Budget Committee Chairman Barry Spivey. Commissioner E.W. Hill, chairman of the Roads Committee, seconded the motion to borrow up to $2.4 million.

After the proposed bonds are sold, the term of the debt will be shorter by nine years, according to discussion before the vote.

An exact figure on how much would be saved was unavailable Tuesday morning when that figure, or an estimate of that amount was sought at the county budget office led by Freda Terry.

She did, however, offer another bond sale for comparison. It was to a commission vote last month when commissioners authorized the sale of bonds to refinance debt incurred for construction of the county jail.

That sale is saving the county $347,000 in interest payments, an amount that grew from an initial estimate of some $50,000, and then $200,000 because of a trend for lower and lower interest rates in what's frequently called the municipal bond market even though counties sell bonds there, too.

Some school bond debt and debt from loans by the state revolving loan pool are to be refinanced with a new county bond to be sold to lower repayment costs as well as provide money for the highway department for equipment and supplies, Terry said.

Steve Bates of Guardian Advisors has been advising Marshall County on its bond sales. Tuesday, he explained the bonds are being refinanced "to avoid uncertainty associated with variable rate debt."

The old bonds' interest rate can go up, and the pay-back period will be shorter.

"We're shortening the maturity in order to expand future bonding capacity," Bates said, indicating the new bond will improve the county's ability to borrow money later.

"There's no way to quantify the savings," he said, emphasizing the uncertainty about variable rates.

The bonds will be sold "hopefully by May 5," he said.