Belton Independent School District announced it has reached an important milestone in its 2017 bond program after a $130 million bond sale was completed this week.
District officials said the district now has funding to move forward with the construction of a new high school, elementary school and renovations of two existing facilities.
Voters approved issuing of bonds to fund the projects in May. Financial advisors anticipated the bonds would be issued in two phases: a $100 million issue in 2017 followed by a $49.7 million issue in 2019.
In July, the school board authorized a larger initial bond issue due to interest rates being below their 10-year averages. The true interest cost of 30-year bonds was calculated at 3.65% when they were priced.
Superintendent Susan Kincannon said the district worked closely with their financial advisor to monito the market.
“The larger initial bond issue gave us an opportunity to lock in a low interest rate now and to reduce the potential cost to taxpayers if interest rates rise in the next two years,” Kincannon said.
District officials said since 2010, Belton ISD has refunded existing bonds seven times to take advantage of low interest rates – an approach the district said they used before.
Taxpayers will see a smaller than expected tax increase even with the larger bond issue, the district stated. Voters were told during the bond election that Belton ISD’s interest and sinking tax rate could increase 18.69 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. However, the actual increase will be 16.3 cents.
School board president Randy Pittenger said the board has been committed to addressing their growth needs in a fiscally responsible way.
“This step continues that commitment,” Pittenger said. “and we are pleased that the work on our staff and advisors has resulted in such a favorable outcome for our taxpayers.”
Bonds are rated from ‘AAA’ to ‘D’ and Belton ISD’s bond issue received an ‘AA’ underlying from Fitch Ratings. According to Fitch, the rating is the second highest rating that the company assigns and reflects “the district’s strong economic underpinnings”
Officials said Belton ISD received 100 out of 100 possible points for an “A” or “superior” rating in an annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) report done by the Texas Education Agency. The assessment is done annually and it is a report on each school district in the state. This is the sixth consecutive year that the district has received a perfect score on the FIRST report.
Kincannon said when community members pay their property taxes or vote to approve a bond issue, they’re trusting them to be good stewards of their tax dollars.
“It’s a responsibility that we take seriously,” Kincannon said. “We carefully review ever section of the budget and ask whether or not each expenditure will support our mission to prove an education that challenges all of our students to excel.”
District officials said the board of trustees will adopt a budget and tax rate for the 2017 -2018 school year at their meeting on Aug. 21.