Seems Simple Enough II

Last week we learned that building new schools should actually be a fairly simple process. That is if there were no politics involved. Developed a plan, appropriate the money, build the buildings. Ah, but how much money do we need and how much do we have. Let's figure it up.

Most everyone agrees that nobody wants higher property taxes. So how much money can the county provide for the building program without a tax increase?

The current adopted building plan consists of four projects. A new K-12 school at Greenback, A new 6-8 middle school in Loudon. Combining the two existing Loudon schools as a K-5 and expanding the cafeteria at Philadelphia. Total estimated cost for all four projects including all alternates, $43,434,039.00. Alternates are options that would be nice but not necessary to the project. Total estimated cost for all four projects with no alternates, $40,671,196.00.

New Greenback School-184,268 sq. ft., $26,440,888. W/O Alternates $24,668,878.00.
New Loudon Middle School-92,391 sq. ft., $13,117,151.00. W/O Alternates $12,126,318.00.
Combine Loudon Elementary & Middle. $2,500,000.00
Philadelphia Cafeteria Expansion- $1,376,000.00

For the sake of this article, let's use the highest figure of $43,434,039.00. Now we all know that this figure could be higher or lower depending on the construction and materials costs when we ever actually go to build.

Now the money. I'm going to try to boil this down as simple as possible but it is a little complicated. The building program will be financed through fund 156, The Rural Debt Fund. The county would borrow the money and the payment on the debt would come from this fund. The information below is what Commissioner Austin Shaver has presented to the commission. I've checked, rechecked and doubled checked his facts and figures just to be sure they're right.

Currently, there are 21.21 pennies designated to the Rural Debt Fund. These are property tax pennies that were designated by commission for the building program and other debts. Using to most conservative figures possible, each of these pennies is worth $145,548.00. That means that there is $3,087,836.00 going into the Rural Debt Fund annually. 

As of September, Rural Debt Fund had a reserve of 4.5 million dollars. By the end of February, this total will be much higher. There are currently three existing debts in Fund 156:

-$3 million loan – Payoff is approximately $1.4 million;
-$1.9 million for various school projects (designs, roofs, etc…) -Payoff of the $900,000 requires approximately $700,000; -The remaining $1 million will be rolled into the total school building program funding per the commission’s statement at the time the money was allocated;
-$12.5 million that will require 6.87 pennies to maintain payments for final payoff in 2025.

The plan would be to pay off $3 million loan and the $900,000 with current Rural Debt Fund reserves still leaving 2.4 million in reserves. This would leave just the $12.5 million loan which will require about one million per year thru 2025 to pay off. Doing the math on all these numbers leave us with $2,087,000.00 per year that can be used to make a loan payment. Now remember, I'm using the most conservative numbers I can to make the point. The true revenues would be somewhat higher. Just being cautious. 

How much can the county borrow and payback with $2,087,000.00 per year? It all depends on the interest rate at the time we borrow the money. Here's how it breaks down.

$41 million for 30 years @ 3% = $2,074,291.80/year
$38.5 million for 30 years @ 3.5% = $2,074,586.40/year
$36.4 million for 30 years @ 4% = $2,085,350.04/year
$32.4 million for 30 years @ 5% = $2,087,162.52/year

As you can see, the final interest rate we get will make a big difference in the amount of money we can borrow but we will not know that till commission is ready to borrow the money. Some have argued that a 30 year loan would cost too much in interest over the life of the loan. But just because the loan is for 30 years doesn't prevent earlier payoff. Certainly a 20 year loan would cost less but so too would a 10 year loan or for that matter not borrowing at all would be the cheapest way out. But whether it's your home loan or a school loan, you borrow what you can afford to pay back.

Bottom line, the current proposed building program's estimated cost with everything is $43,434,039.00. With the funds available now, we can afford to borrow somewhere between $32.4 million to $41 million. That means the school board might have to reduce the size/scope of the building plan a little. Both new schools have areas where reductions could be made. The combining of the Loudon Elementary and Middle Schools couldn't even take place till the new middle school was completed and doesn't even have to be done. We can make the plan fit the money if commission would just give us a number. 

The school board has asked the commission repeatedly to give us a maximum amount of money we could expect for the building program. Thus far, they have declined our request. Rather, some taking issue with various parts of the building plan. Namely a new school at Greenback. 

We're there. The plan is ready, the money's there and to be perfectly honest, there's even more revenue already available now. It would just take too long to break it down in this story but it's there.

If I were one of those who was trying so hard to squash the new school at Greenback, I would probably come out with some fuzzy math backed up with information from the "professionals" that shows there's just not enough money to build Greenback but just enough to do everything else. But if I were one of those who wanted what's best for the students and the school system as a whole, I would be trying to find as much money as possible to do as much of the building program as possible.

I guess time will tell.