“In conjunction with opening up new buildings we have to issue bonds and one thing I’m proud to say is … [Standards and Poor’s] gave us a AA-plus when we’ve issued these bonds and only a AAA is higher,” Chief Financial Advisor Todd Hooper said during the work session portion of the evening.
Brian Ubell, vice president for Robert W. Baird, who underwrote the system’s bonds, also spoke during the work session.
“The 2008 [bond] issue, you issued $47.235 million worth of bonds and that issue was rated AA-plus by benefit of the Georgia State Enhancement Program and you as a district have an underlying rating of AA-minus,” Ubell said. “That was an upgrade from the A-plus category and getting into that AA category helped your constant capital, which meant reduced interest overall and more effective application of your sales taxes.”
He continued, “… Now one of the factors in the rating process is how much of your debt is paid off in five years and how much is paid in 10 years, and usually 50 percent in 10 years is a good ratio and, this past October, all of your debt [since the 2008 bond cycle] has been repaid in the past five years.”
Hooper explained acquiring the higher bond rating is a difficult task for the school system.
“S&P gets on a phone call with us and speaks with our underwriter, speaks with our attorneys to ascertain how strong is our community. They look at management, the tenure, the experience and they also look at our infrastructure to see if we’re adequately adding buildings along the proper pace …,” Hooper said. “On Nov. 1, we’ve paid off these bonds, which means the new Cass High School is officially paid off. The board then proceeded to cut up the bond note on the new CHS to celebrate paying off the debt.”
Immediately following the board’s work session was the board’s business session, during which the board approved a partnership with the city of Euharlee regarding the Trail Grant Program as well as the Bartow County College and Career Academy’s board of directors.
The academy is expected to open fall of 2013 and the system currently is awaiting charter approval from the state.
In other news, resident Fred Werner approached the board during the public participation portion of the board’s business session regarding a list of 28 questions he presented to the board in September. The questions dealt with actions by the board, many of which were addressed in the complaint filed to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which did not result in an investigation.
“This is a simple list … there’s nothing hard about it,” Werner said. “It’s my right to back my local officials, my right to challenges, and it’s my right as a taxpayer to ask questions.”
Werner said the questions he has asked have not been answered, referencing an article in The Daily Tribune News in which Superintendent John Harper stated the questions presented by the community regarding the SACS complaint have been answered by the organization not seeing the need for an investigation
“Why should I have to [file] an open records request? A simple yes or no will do. That’s all I’m asking [are] yes or no questions, but still we get the runaround,” Werner said.
He continued, “… We want this board to be held accountable, we want transparency, we want respect, accountability and ethics, and how can you do this by saying in your letters [the questions] have been answered?”
Werner said he and other community members will continue to come to meetings after Jan. 1, the day in which the newly elected Fred Kittle will take the Post 4 seat currently held by Wanda Cagle Gray. Gray also has questioned the board’s actions and helped in filing the SACS complaint.
“[Residents] always have the opportunity to come [to board meetings] and as long as they conduct themselves in the proper manner they have the right to come here and say what they want to the board, it just doesn’t mean what they’re saying are the facts as they are,” Chairman Davis Nelson said. “There’s always varied opinions to the issues and I respect their right to come, and as long as I’m on the board, they’re going to have that right to speak.”