School bonds sold 2013.11.06

Posted in 2013 November

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci Board of Eduction members voted Monday to accept the bid from Stifel, Nicolaus and Co. for the sale of bonds totaling $3.94 million. 

Voters approved a bond issue in May to fund an array of maintenance issues, and the original plan called for a loan of $4.4 million.

Money will be borrowed at a rate of 3.15 percent which should lead to a savings of $86,000 over the life of the loan compared to earlier estimates. The remaining debt from the 2002 middle school building project was also rolled into the loan, saving an additional $11,897.

“We got a good rate and cleared out some debt from 2002,” said superintendent Mike McAran.

McAran told board members that bond investment used to be considered a safe approach, but Detroit’s financial problems have changed that. The school’s bond rating fell due to the city’s loss of population over the past few years and to the reduction in taxable value, as well as to Detroit’s problems.

ENROLLMENT—Board members approved a budget amendment for the general fund, reflecting the change in revenue due to falling enrollment.

Creating budgets before revenue sources are known has long been a challenge for Michigan school districts, McAran said, but a recent change from Lansing is making it even more difficult.

Recently, he said, state aid was based on a combination of enrollment from the fall count and from student numbers from the previous spring count. With the new rules, the spring count moves to the current year. This pushes more of the budget-making process toward data that isn’t yet known.

Morenci’s budget approved in June was based on a projected enrollment of 700 students, said finance director Erica Metcalf, but the student count ended up at 685. That lowered revenue by $216,000, but that was largely matched by savings from staffing changes. In the end, $86,000 will come out of the district’s fund equity to cover the shortfall.

“What we have to do is work on bringing students back into the district,” McAran said, and he wants to work with the board’s finance committee to take a closer look at the issue.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s push toward increased on-line education could cause a further erosion of funding. McAran intends to move forward in establishing an on-line program for Morenci.

AWARD—Morenci’s Project Lead the Way science program, led by teacher Dan Hoffman, received an achievement award issued by the organization that sponsors the classes.

WRESTLING—Only two students have signed up to participate in the high school wrestling program, but there are nearly a dozen middle school students interested in joining a team. Assistant principal Phil Stark volunteered to work with the students.

COACH—Ashley Joughin was hired to serve as middle school girls basketball coach.

PROCEDURE—Board president Scott Merillat said that board meeting procedures will change to allow the public the opportunity to comment on agenda items at the start of board meetings. The chance to comment on any other school business will be made available at the end of the meeting.

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