Refinancing could save county big

By The Mercury

Pottawatomie County could save as much as a quarter of a million dollars by refinancing a portion of its debt.

County commissioners Monday adopted a resolution to proceed with refinancing of approximately $2.5 million in callable debt, a move expected to save as much as $253,700 in interests costs, depending on the favorability of the new rate.

The projected savings amounts to 8.973 percent of the present value of the bonds, according to David Arteberry of the George K. Baum Co., which is handling the refinancing.

“By any measure, that’s a significant amount of savings in relation to the size of the bond issue,” Arteberry said. “All of this can be done without expending any costs out of your current operating budget.”

The refinancing will involve nine outstanding bond issues, four Kansas Department of Transportation loans and two benefit districts. Depending on the bond rating the county receives from Standard & Poors, the refinancing could cut the overall interest rate by more than half — from 4.386 percent to 1.97 percent.

“You’ve got so many positive things going for you and I think we’ve got a real positive message. Hopefully, they (the S&P rating committee) will agree with us,” Arteberry said.

The target date for issuing the new bonds is Sept. 8.

In other business Monday:

• The commission adopted the 2015 budget as proposed following a budget hearing.

The budget has an overall tax rate of 25.724 mills — slightly lower than the levy of 26.011 mills for 2014. Countywide spending authority is slightly more than $12.5 million, which is about $300,000 more than the current fiscal year.

Leslie Campbell, director of the health department, made the only comments at the budget hearing, expressing disappointment the commission didn’t include an additional wage increase for county employees in the budget.

Campbell said the commission agreed to look at a second increase after conducting a wage study several months ago.

The starting pay at the health department is making it difficult for her to hire and retain employees, she said.

“I’ve been down-staffed for more than a year,” Campbell told commissioners. “They won’t come here because our starting wages are too low.”

The starting pay for a registered nurse at the health department is $19.50 per hour, compared with $22 or $24 per hour in the private sector, she said.

“I cannot hire people for that amount,” Campbell said.

• Appraiser Lois Schlegel reported 89 property sales in the county for the month of July. That’s10 below last month’s sales but significantly higher than the previous two years. For the year-to-date, there have been sales representing 184 vacant lots in the county.

“I’m sure there will be a new house or commercial building on every one of them by the end of the year,” Schlegel said. “There’s a lot going on down on (Highway) 24.”

• Lisa Wright, treasurer, said the 2013 delinquent real estate tax list had been sent out for publication.

The list includes 453 parcels (about 1.15 percent of the county total) with $456,000 in outstanding real estate taxes.

• The commission authorized County Counselor John Watt to continue negotiations on a condemnation proceeding. Watt discussed the issue with the commission in executive session.

• Commissioners also presented certificates for years of service to the following county employees: Greg Riat (25), Ray Fairchild (20), Dan McClain (25) and Larry Wahl (30).

• Andrea Karnes, office manager for the county attorney, reported the following cases filed in July: criminal, 222; traffic, 53; juvenile offender, 15; fish and game, six; care and treatment, three.

• Chris Trudo, emergency management director, and Bruce Brazzle, fire supervisor gave a monthly update.

Brazzle said the remodeling of the EMS training center in Wamego Industrial Park is nearly complete and that two recent fires — a business at St. Marys and a trailer house at Emmett — were set intentionally and remain under investigation.

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