Refinancing bonds saves Webb City R-7 School District close to $1M

Other unexpected revenue provides more options for when it comes time to finance next two projects

  Webb City R-7 School Board members Tuesday received a double dose of good financial news.

First, they learned investors are willing to refinance not one but three bond issues.

An “excited” Brent Blevins, of Stifel Nicolaus, reported that his firm had gone to the bond earlier in the day and obtained an interest rate ranging from 1.63% to 1.05% on the three bond issues, some of which aren’t scheduled to be paid off until 2034. (Each of the bond issues will mature as originally set up.)

It means that after paying the refinancing fees the district will save a total $926,844.

When the board authorized refinancing $3 million of the 2014 bond issue in December, the estimated savings totaled $750,000.

Because the interest rates came in so low, Blevins arranged to refinance $592,000 from the 2010 and $1.566 million from the 2012 bond issue.

The remaining debt service would have been $8,807,176 under the existing three bond issues. Under the new plan, the total debt service will be $7,880,331.

So the district will have $926,844 available in its capital improvements fund to pay for other projects.

The board took little time in approving documents to refinance the three bond issues.

Blevins said a key component of the deal is the district’s A+ Standard and Poors rating, which he said is based on the board’s record of managing its finances, board policies and long-range planning.

He also said Superintdent Tony Rossetti  was effective in answering prospective investors’ questions by phone.

BUDGET VASTLY IMPROVED

The second helping of good news came from Rossetti, who reported the district could end the year in June by transfering $1.4 million, the maximum amount allowed by the state, from the operating fund to the capital improvements fund.

When the year began July 1, ending with a balanced budget seemed an acceptable forecast.

Meanwhile, the district has received unexpected COVID-19 related revenue: a $300,000 grant from the state and a $1.8 million allocation of federal CARES Act stimulus funding from the Jasper County Commission.

“That’s a blessing because not every county does that,” said Rossetti. 

He said the county was fair in basing the allotments to school districts based on the number of students enrolled.

Moreover, he said he expects be another $2.4 million in stimulous funding from Congress this year.

AMI DAYS INSTEAD OF SNOW DAYS

Eager for some good COVID news?

Rossetti reported that the state will allow the district to count up to six snow days as alternative method instruction days, which are being referred to as AMI days.

In other words, snow days won’t have to be made up, assuming students learn at home on those days.

“I won’t feel nearly as stressed” about calling off school for snow this year, Rossetti said.

It means for sure that scheduled days off, including Presidents’ Day, Good Friday and spring break will be protected.

INFECTION THREAT NOT OVER

Kevin Cooper, assistant superintendent of business affairs, reported that the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the district was good following Christmas break but is trending up now.

As he recommended, the board voted to approve continued extra sick days through the end of the year for staff members who are quarantined. The federal government was covering the costs of that policy before it ended Dec. 31.

So far, according to the Jasper County Health Department, there have been 163 students (out of the 4,633 enrollment) who have tested positive for the coronavirus. And 142 of the 600 staff members have tested positive.

There have been 1,236 students and 186 staff members quarantined. 

Cooper said he takes that report as a win for the district’s plan to slow down the rate of infection at school. It’s believed a good portion of the positive cases were caused by community spread outside the classroom.

SOME VIRTUAL LEARNERS CALLED BACK TO SCHOOL

Brenten Byrd, assistant superintendent of instruction, reported that letters have been sent to 95 students (64 high school, 31 elementary) requiring them to attend classes in person instead of virtually.

He said parents had previously been notified that their students’ rate of success at learning is not adequate and it was felt they would do better in the classroom instead of at home.

He gave special recognition to Tamara Ponce, assistant high school principal, for holding 40 meetings with parents of at-home learners.

“We’re trying to save them so they graduate,” Byrd said.

There are now 501 virtual students, compared to 532 in the first semester.

PLANS FOR TWO PROJECTS

Cooper said the district’s construction management firm, Crossland Construction, will likely be ready to call for bids next month on two projects that have been planned since last year.

An addition to the south side of the swim center is to be built as locker rooms. The 1975 building’s locker rooms are now considered inadequate for swimmers. Those will be used as public restrooms and possibly a larger laundry room.

The second project, primarily to be used as a range for the archery and JROTC rifle teams, might now be enlarged than originally planned because of better finances. 

It will be built in back of the high school. 

Other organizatins could use the facility, and there might be enough floor space for a couple of offices or classrooms.

FRISCO TRAIL EXTENSION

Cooper told the board about a proposal by the Joplin Trails Coalition to extend the Frisco Greenway Trail from east of the swim center to connect with the Ruby Jack Trail in Oronogo.

The plan is contingent on the district to provide an easement on its property for an 8-foot wide concrete sidewalk along the berm that is on the west side of the middle school.

It would connect with the Stadium Drive sidewalk and pass through Cardinal Valley Habitat.

The board gave permission for Cooper to continue talks with the coalition about the possibility of the district providing the easement.

In other action, Rossetti informed the board that at least another art teacher will be needed at the high school next year because class sizes are growing.

ADMINISTRATIVE CONTRACTS EXTENDED

Following a closed session to discuss personnel, the board voted to maintain Rossetti’s three-year contract by extending it. The contracts for Cooper, Byrd and Kayla Cullers, director of special education, were extended by one year.

Retirement letters were accepted from three teachers:

– Angela Resa, high school English teacher for the past 29 years.

– Jacqueline Young, speech language pathologist for the past 15 years.

– Lanita Southard, junior high art teacher. She has 21 years of experience, 20 of which have been with Webb City.

THREE CANDIDATES FILE

There will be a school board election this year because there are more candidates than the number of seats open. Two seats are open this year.

The incumbents, Lisa Reynolds and Jason Woodmansee, have both filed for re-election. 

They are challenged so far by Grant T. Collings, 926 S. Roane Court, Webb City.

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