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Gainesville school board secures funding for new Fair Street building
$14.5M bonds allow board to start SPLOST projects before collections
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The Fair Street Tigers are one step closer to having a new school.

Bryan Huskey, an underwriter with Merchant Capitol, told Gainesville City Schools Board of Education members Wednesday they had been approved for $14.5 million in general obligation bonds to help pay for a new Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School building.

"Over the past three months, we've been working to get the bond transaction in place," he said. "Based on very conservative (special purpose local option sales tax) performance, you'll be able to cover all of the debt service on the bonds as well as the 2007 bonds (from the Gainesville Middle School) project and have some left over."

The general obligation bond, which is similar to a loan, will allow the school board to start its SPLOST projects before it begins collections in the fourth quarter of 2012. The SPLOST money, instead of paying for the projects outright, will instead pay back the general obligation bonds.

Huskey said the board was able to get the bonds at an interest rate of 2.106 percent, down from the rates estimated over the summer at 2.2 percent to 2.3 percent. He also said the school board's credit rating had gone up, though it still had some work to do.

"(Investors) like the direction you're going compared to the downward trajectory on the prior rating," he said. "They want to see a little more time lapse until they upgrade you to an A category rating."

Tread Syfan, an attorney with Steward, Melvin & Frost, LLP, told board members the bond resolution gives them the authority to levy ad valorem taxes if the SPLOST funds were not enough to cover the cost of the projects. He said the SPLOST estimates were conservative and indicated they would be enough without additional taxes.

"We have money to build Fair Street!" said Principal Will Campbell, who was present at the meeting. "I am excited and happy to be here. It's just good to know we can proceed with the project."

The school board is also proceeding with changes to its balanced scorecard, which is essentially a report card for the district. The scorecard is being updated to include measurements on Georgia's College and Career Ready Performance Index, which is the state's proposed waiver to the No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress legislation.

"We have all of these new indicators we want to track as a system for that index," said Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction. "We're taking what we had last year as a balanced scorecard, adding the index and keeping it sized appropriately."

One concern board members had with the proposed scorecard adjustments is that eighth-graders are being increasingly encouraged to have high school credit by the time they are freshmen, which could decrease their chance to take courses such as physical education.

"Our charge is to see how many options for high school credit we can offer in the eighth grade," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. "It's to enable them to, before their diploma tracks, to do dual-enrollment as much as possible, and it's also a cost savings for the high school."

Moore said he wants this to be a living document, so board members can address questions as they go along in the process.

 

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