Refinancing saves Elk Lake $1.4M

BY PAT FARNELLI

TheElkLakeSchool Districtvoted Tuesday to refinance last year’s long-term loan for the Susquehanna County Career andTechnologyCenter’s expansion project with the purchase of bonds.

Les Bear, after being introduced by Superintendent William Bush, spoke to the advantages of bond versus paying off the loan over 15 or 20 years.

The first payment for the expansion project loan is scheduled for May. The SCCTC expansion project’s ground-breaking was held in March 2011, and the building is 80-85 percent completed.

According to Bear, the 2011 Peoples Neighborhood Bank Loan for $7.6 million, if allowed to go until full term at the current rate, would cost the district $10,957,000. By refinancing with a 15-year bond issue, the district will be saving more than $1.4 million on the current cost arrangement.

Bear said that if the district was rated by Standard and Poor, it would likely receive an “A Plus” rating, something that only 20 percent of the public schools in theUnited Statescould claim.

TheElkLakeSchool Districthas no debt aside from this bank loan, he said.

The board voted unanimously to authorize the bond financing for the SCCTC expansion for a 15-year bond at a level payment schedule, saving $1,402,055.

Bush thanked Peoples Neighborhood bank for offering rates (on the original bank loan last year) “that no one could touch in the bond market at that time.”

He said that the loan and the bond transaction were in the best interest for taxpayers, and that the district would continue to have its accounts at Peoples Neighborhood Bank.

The process of getting the bond issue will take several weeks, and Bear said that his company could begin looking for entities willing to buy the bonds as soon as Monday.

He recommended that the district purchase a bond insurance premium, which ensures the maximum savings possible. The bond insurance charges so many cents per $1,000 debt service, and will amount to approximately $36,000.

In other business, the board discussed bids on new cafeteria tables received from Highsmith of Madison, Wisc., in the amount of $19,520; Shiffler Equipment Sales of Chardon, Ohio, in the amount of $19,564; and Stone Office Inc. of Scranton, $21,736.

All of the bids were for 16 portable Mitchell tables with matched stools. The board accepted the low bid by Highsmith.

The board also approved a 2012-13 school calendar, and a 2011-2012 revised school calendar. The SCCTC graduation was set for June 7, with Monday, June 4 as the last day of school. A list of this year’s graduates was approved by the board, with one additional student.

Some 56 students are receiving college credits for dual enrollment courses, in spite of having to foot the bill themselves due to funding cuts.

The Elk Lake District is paying about $217,000 for cyber and/or charter school enrollment for 23-24 students at this time. Several resolutions were adopted at the meeting, including one on cyber charter funding and another on pension reform.

An occupational therapy service agreement with Donna Brink was approved. An agreement was approved with Head Start, which is now in its fifth year atElkLake. Another agreement was approved for the Homebound Instruction program.

The fall musical was announced: “Kilroy Was Here,” a musical military tribute.

Becky Jo Sherman was added to the substitute list for elementary and special education.

Next year’s budget is still on hold, so agenda items related to the budget were tabled until the May meeting. A new repayment schedule will need to be created for the next 15 years on the SCCTC bonds, and a special meeting may be necessary in order to have this ready by the May meeting.

Resignations were accepted with regret for: Holly Anderson, high school physical education teacher for 31 years; Beverly Fancher, first grade teacher; Karen Ann Krakosky, eighth grade reading teacher and Junior National Honor Society adviser; Jane Liebegott, guidance secretary; and Julia Chudleigh, sixth grade teacher.

Bush said that the high school physical education position will be posted, while others may or may not be replaced.

The school board had several executive sessions for “personnel purposes” on April 4 and April 17.

The board discussed school bus inspections and a contract limit of 14 years for the age of the bus. This was changed to read “250,000 miles up to year 14.”

Several exonerations were approved for residents of Meshoppen and Rush townships, as well as flood rebates. Some 36 properties were given a tax reduction, with a total of $4,656.17.