Taxpayers to benefit from reduced interest rates

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 18, 2016

While plans and design work for construction are still ongoing, the district has reached another milestone in its project to renovate five of its six school buildings.

The Dowagiac Union Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the sale of its $37 million pair of bonds, narrowly passed by district voters in November, during its meeting Monday. In what was welcome news to members of the school board, the sale will result in a lower than expected interest rate of 4 percent, said district Finance Director Stacy Ritchie.

“The market was favorable, so the bonds will be sold at a premium, which should result in savings to the taxpayer,” Ritchie said.

Due to the lower-than-anticipated interest rates, the bonds are expected to generate a $5.7 million premium, or discount, over the course of their expected 25-year lifetime. The savings could result in the district paying off the balance of the bond sooner than expected, lowering the amount of mills assessed on district property, or both, Ritchie said.

“Regardless it’s a benefit to taxpayers, one way or another,” she said.

The funds generated by the bond sale will be distributed to the district on March 2. A portion of the money will be retained to pay for construction duties — the remaining funds will be placed in treasury bonds, where they will accrue interest, with money drawn from these bonds to replenish the district’s construction fund as needed, Ritchie said.

The $37 million generated by the bonds will be used to pay for extensive renovation work to Dowagiac Union High School and the district’s four elementary buildings, aimed at improving safety and security, heating and cooling needs, technology infrastructure and ADA compliance. The district will also build a new competitive gym at the high school and make improvements to accessibility to Chris Taylor Alumni Field.

Planning for the extensive construction project is currently in progress, with work expected to begin by summer.

The anticipated 3.5 mill increase on district homes will begin being assessed in December, Ritchie said.