Commissioners consider re–fi on jail debt

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

An opportunity to save nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars has arisen for Morgan County.  The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) is considering refinancing the Morgan County Jail debt in order to take advantage of current low interest rates, potentially saving the county up to $400,000 over the remaining life of the loan. The county currently pays about $2 million per year towards the $19 million bonds until 2023. The payments come out of SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds.

Bill Johnson, senior vice president of Stephens Inc. out of Atlanta, gave a brief presentation about the opportunity to the BOC at the monthly work session last Tuesday. According to Johnson, the bonds were originally issued with interest rates between 4.25 and 5 percent, but those rates have now dropped as low as 1.5 percent.

“Interest rates have declined significantly over the last several years, especially within the last year,” said Johnson. “They have gone down three-tenths of one percent in just the last quarter. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you are talking about millions of dollars, it adds up quick.”

County Manager Michael Lamar urged the BOC to consider Johnson’s proposal.  “There’s an opportunity to refinance the revenue bonds that were issued for the construction of the public safety complex,” said Lamar. “These rates are unbelievable. I hope you will give Bill the freedom and ability to look at other banks and look at other market placements, so he can come back with a definitive recommendation on how to proceed.

Johnson promised that with the county’s excellent credit rating, significant savings would be possible whether the BOC decides to hold a public sale of the current bonds or acquire a third-party bank to refinance.  “In any case, there will be incredible savings,” said Johnson.

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