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School district continues to work down debt load early

The Nye County School District is in the process of refunding some of its outstanding bonds that would result in a savings of nearly $600,000 during the next 12 years.

The District Board of Trustees approved the plan Jan. 13.

Chief Operating Officer Ray Ritchie said the plan to refund the bond, which was scheduled to be repaid in 2027, was first brought to the board last year.

Ritchie said he’s scheduled to meet with the district’s bond rating agency later this month to finalize the action.

The refunding is focused on the $15 million bond issued in 2007 with an interest rate between 4.65 percent and 6.5 percent, one of the district’s higher interest rates in its $86.6 million debt load.

The outstanding balance July 1 on the 2007 bond was $10.8 million, but has been further paid down during the year.

“We sell bonds to investors and they earn interest on those bonds and we build schools with the money,” he said. “There is a life on those bonds and right now we have outstanding on our 2007-08, $8 million and we’re going to refinance $7.9 of the $8 million, so it’s almost the whole amount. The savings to the district is $602,000.”

The district started the year with 11 bonds and one medium-term financing loan, and was scheduled to pay $3.8 million in interest and $5.1 million in principal payments through the fiscal year ending 2015. Ritchie said the district has also paid off a $3 million 15-year bond issued in 2004 that had $235,000 outstanding July 1.

District officials late last year were counting on voters to approve a Nov. 4 ballot question authorizing the district to continue issuing general obligation school bonds to finance the acquisition, construction, improvement and equipping of school facilities.

As it stands today, more than $17 million in various construction and renovation projects require immediate attention within the district.

A yes vote would have allowed district officials to extend the current bonds by 10 years.

Ritchie was quick to note that the November ballot question and Tuesday’s 2015 refunding bond resolution were two separate bond issues relating to the county’s property tax rate.

“We went to the voters almost 10 years ago and said, as long as we don’t increase the tax rate, allow us to roll over the ability to go out and bond when we need to and if we financially can afford to,” Ritchie said. “That is what got turned down in this last election. We have a tax rate set up for debt and that’s on everybody that’s in Nye County and they pay their property taxes. We get that money to pay off the debt. It’s a separate fund. The tax rate will stay in place until all the debt is paid off.”

The issue, Ritchie said, will be revisited during the 2016 elections. Or help could come from Carson City. Gov. Brian Sandoval’s state of the state address Jan. 15 called for a plan where school districts could roll over bonds without voter approval.

“I will support legislation to approve a temporary rollover of bonding authority for the construction and maintenance of local schools, with state oversight,” Sandoval said.

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