A $17.5 million bond issue could pay for a new Amherst elementary school while keeping the average homeowner’s monthly taxes stable.
That was the assessment Monday by David Conley, president of Rockmill Consultants of Lancaster, Ohio.
He told the board of education it should refinance millions of dollars worth of existing bond debt at 4.25 percent while borrowing costs are low and cash reserves are high.
Calling the Amherst Schools “extremely strong” financially, Conley also pitched an idea to go to voters for a 27-year bond issue. It would replace another that’s about to expire.
If successful at the ballot in August or November, property owners within the district’s boundaries would continue to pay an average of $15 per month to the school system for the bonds (that number does not include other school taxes already approved by voters).
“That means taxes would not go up, just stay where they are,” Conley told education leaders. “It is a continuing tax, not an increase.”
The new bond issue would stay on the books through 2053 — and taxes linked to the bonds would actually decline a little starting in 2030, Conley predicted.
He said refinancing in the manner recommended is an option for only about five percent of Ohio’s more than 600 school districts.
Amherst Schools treasurer Barbara Donohue backed Conley’s numbers. Better yet, she said they were very conservative estimates.
“This safe, conservative number gives us a lot of options,” said school board member Ron Yacobozzi.
Amherst is waiting on the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for an offer to help pay for a new kindergarten through fifth grade school.
That offer was at first expected early in the year but has now been pushed back to late spring or early summer.
“The state was very clear that we should continue to move forward with our facility planning,” Amherst superintendent Steven Sayers said in January.
The plan is to spend up to $30 million for a building that would replace Powers Elementary and Harris Elementary, most likely on land next to Amherst Junior High School.
Sayers described Powers and Harris as “beyond financial repair,” saying bringing them up to state building standards would cost about two-thirds of the amount needed to build anew.
Conley cautioned the board that a campaign will be needed to win over voters who may be confused about the no-new-taxes proposal, however.
“You maintain expenses incredibly well, but that doesn’t mean some people will think their taxes are high,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times David Conley of Rockmill Consultants shows graphs and numbers indicating how the Amherst Schools could construct a new building without raising taxes.
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