— The Wayne Highlands School Board moved for Tuesday in refinancing capital improvements and borrowing an additional $1.5 million for school improvements.
During last week's meeting of the board committee, members learned there is an opportunity to refinance the existing 2007A series bonds as well as capitalize on very low interest rates.
"This is an opportunity we recommend we take advantage of," said Wayne Highlands Superintendent Greg Frigoletto.
The interest rate would drop from 3.7 percent to just .6 percent.
The superintendent said it is a "unique" opportunity for the district to obtain additional funds in order to keep the buildings and grounds in good condition.
Frigoletto recommended the district refinance the current bonds and then obtain an additional $1 million in funds at the lower rates.
But board member Lothar Holbert suggested the district might want to get more than $1 million because of the low interest rates.
He said the issue was discussed at the last meeting "but we didn't talk about" an exact dollar amount which would be sought.
Financial manger Jeff Firmstone told the board the money has to be earmarked for specific uses and that it "is not allowed to be co-mingled" with other funds.
"I'm not comfortable with the amount yet," said Holbert. "I would like to look at it closer and look at other projects."
"Greg and Jeff think $1 million is the right amount and I back them up on that," said board president Tom Fasshauer.
Firmstone reminded the board it is not only obtaining the new money but refinancing the existing debt of $1.45 million.
"I know there are projects," said Holbert.
Frigoletto told the board he wanted some type of decision because there is a small window of opportunity to get those low interest rates. He said it would likely have to be done within the next two weeks in order to get that rate.
Page 2 of 5 - Firmstone said there will be another window of opportunity next year with bond issues, however, he added it is unknown at what rate interest will be offered.
Holbert said he felt interest rates were on the rise and now would be an opportune time to get such low-interest financing.
Firmstone said even if the rates do go up next year, it's almost assured those rates will be "good."
Frigoletto told the board there are very precise steps which have to be taken if the money is obtained. Those include tight timelines to get the projects off the ground and completed. He said 5 percent of the money has to be spent in the first six months and 85 percent of the money has to be expended within three years. It all has to be spent on capital improvement projects.
"There is a lot of planning that goes into the projects," said Frigoletto. "We can't get ahead of our planning or our finances."
Frigoletto added that to do the financing, it would not extend the repayment time and would had "minimal impact on the millage rate."
On Wednesday, Frigoletto said that impact would be a .017 increase on the debt service portion of the millage.
He called the increase "almost nil."
He also confirmed that what the overall tax impact remains an unknown as teacher contract negotiations are still pending. Depending on the agreement, or lack of, the impact on taxes remain unknown.
Firmstone did tell the board the district is being offered such a good rate because of its quality financial rating.
"We're in a great spot," said Firmstone.
In the end, the board decided to move forward and voted to refinance the bonds as well as get $1.5 million in additional funds for capital projects.
Page 3 of 5 - The vote was unanimous by the board.
The board recognized three Honesdale High School seniors during the meeting.
Kelli Jackson is the daughter of Thomas and Karen Jackson of Honesdale.
She ranks in the top 10 percent of her class and after high school plans to attend Temple University to major in kinesiology and become a doctor of physical therapy.
At Honesdale High School, Jackson participated in various sports. She was in track and field and cross country. In cross country, she was a letter winner, outstanding junior varsity runner, most improved runner and academic excellence award.
She is a member of the student council, mock interview participant, St. John's Youth Group member, on the honor roll, a member of the National Honor Society where she is a blood drive volunteer and a volunteer at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
Jackson thanked her teachers, coaches and others at the school for giving her that "extra encouragement, extra push."
She also said that Honesdale High School officials are "always making sure" that students have "so many things to be involved in."
Karin Lemon is the daughter of Ronald and Carolyne Lemon of Honesdale.
She ranks in the top 10 percent of her class and plans to attend Pace University in New York City to major in business and then go to law school.
In high school, Lemon has been involved in girls soccer where she is a letter winner.
She is a member of the Mock Trial team, student council where she is a Food Pantry volunteer, homeroom representative and Pumpkin Fest volunteer, a member of the FBLA, senior class president, Economics PA Stock Market Game participant, Economics PA Business Plan Competition, editor of the school newspaper, honor roll and National Honor Society.
Page 4 of 5 - "I am excited and honored to be here," Lemon told the board.
She thanked her teachers who she said "helped me become the motivated person I am today."
Lemon said Honesdale High School "helped me grow as a student and a person."
Joseph Quinn is the son of James and Peggy Quinn of Honesdale.
He ranks in the top 20 percent of his class and is enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he plans to work in intelligence.
During school, he participated in track and field, was a letter winner on the wrestling team, a letter winner on the football team, is on the honor roll and National Honor Society.
When Quinn spoke, he thanked his parents.
"Without them, I have no idea where I could be right now. It really has been a great experience."
"The three of you have everything going for you," said board member Kim Eldred.
In other business, the board:
• Approved the 2013-14 school calendar. School will open on Aug. 26 and the last day of school is tentatively set for May 28.
(See related graphic for the complete school calendar.)
• Accepted the resignations of John Benson, social studies and language arts teacher at Preston School; Linda Bryan, district-wide occupational therapist; and Linda Mains, third grade teacher at Lakeside Elementary.
• Added three people to the substitute list: Meghan Hughson (teacher); JoAnn Warcholik (teacher assistant); and Renee Fries (secretary).
Page 5 of 5 - • Approved Eric Eisele and Trevin Jaggars as varsity and junior varsity baseball volunteers.
• Appointed Kim Lawson as the wellness coordinator for the remainder of the school year.
• Approved a special education consortium agreement with Wallenpaupack and Western Wayne school districts.