By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved a tax levy resolution for the Morgan County School System, as a constitutionally-required backup plan in case the system cannot collect enough revenue through ESPLOST to repay $15 million in bonds borrowed to build the new high school and transportation facility. The levy allows the Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) to adjust future millage rates (property taxes) to repay the bonds if needed.
“The bonds are absolutely intended to be paid for by ESPLOST,” said Dr, James Woodard, superintendent of schools of the one penny Education Special Project Local Sale Tax. “But this is a backup insurance policy just in case.”
The Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) finalized the bond issuance at the last regular meeting in July, securing $15 million in bonds at a 1.9 interest rate, which will bring the total owed to $18.2 million. The BOE intends to take another round of bonds in the amount of $12 million in 16 months to fund the construction of the new middle school.
“It was always anticipated that we would have to sale $27 million of bonds for purposes of financing the schools,” explained Woodard, who reminded the BOC of the November 2015 referendum vote on the new schools and ESPLOST funding for the project. “ESPLOST revenues will payback the bonds.”
According to County Manager Adam Mestres, the BOC’s approval was merely a formality required by the State of Georgia’s constitution.
“It is constitutionally required that we do this in the event that their education penny (ESPLOST) does not cover the entirety of this amount,” explained Mestres. “The BOE would levy the necessary millage rate increase in the future if ESPLOST is not collected as expected, but they are conservative with their numbers as to make sure that does not happen.”
The total cost of the new consolidated campus, which includes a new high school, a new middle school, the College and Career Academy and new transportation facility is projected to come in at $59 million. Back in May, the BOE approved a newly negotiated construction contract with Parrish Construction in the amount of $46 million for the construction of the new high school and middle school. As previously reported in the Morgan County Citizen, the board is expecting approximately $20 million in state funding. Two Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOTST) initiatives are projected to raise more than $29 million. Balances from two other ESPLOTST initiatives are roughly $10 million. The board also has a certificate of deposit worth $2.1 million. The board also saw reductions of $1.7 million from athletic field renovation and $625,000 from heating and air conditioning renovation at the Morgan County Primary School.
The board also hopes to include more than $3 million from taxes from the Stanton Springs Industrial Park once the Shire project comes online and the four counties involved in the project begin to collect property taxes. Woodard said the system also is looking at energy rebates and salvage of current fixture, furniture and equipment from the current schools. The agreement between the Morgan County Board of Education and Parrish Construction for the construction of the high school, demolition of the old high school and construction of the new middle school includes a guaranteed maximum construction price of $46,119,240. Part of that costs includes a lump sum payment to Parrish of $1,152,981 for construction manager’s fee and $2,391,894 for general construction costs. There is also a nearly $1 million construction contingency allowance that could, if not used during the construction of the schools could reduce the over all cost of the project.