Bond refinancing helps District 51

A shaky stock market helped School District 51 save $4.1 million in interest that property-taxpayers otherwise would have paid on bonds issued in 2004 to build new schools.

The district refinanced $76.71 million in bonds Sept. 8, when stock market uncertainty placed interest rates at between 0.6 percent and 3.23 percent, according to District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita. The new interest rates replaced 4 to 5 percent interest rates the bonds had been carrying.

“Interest rates were probably at their lowest point in 10 years. We received a 4.5 percent savings,” DeVita told the school board during a meeting Tuesday night.

The interest savings will be spread out between 2012 and 2024. Property owners in the district will see the new interest rate reflected in their property tax bills as a slightly lower mill rate on the portion of property taxes used to pay off the $109 million bond issue.

The school board approved another cost-saving measure at Tuesday’s meeting, a resolution to sign a contract with High Noon Solar to install solar-energy systems at The Career Center and Dual Immersion Academy for no charge to the district.

District 51 Maintenance and Operations Director Cal Clark said High Noon Solar will maintain ownership of the systems for 20 years, charge the district for the energy the systems produce, and receive energy credits from Xcel Energy worth 11 cents for every kilowatt hour produced by the systems. The district will save money by paying a lower rate for solar energy to High Noon than the district would otherwise pay Xcel for energy.

Clark said he’s not sure when the systems will be installed at the two schools or at six other schools that may receive solar installations as soon as next year.

“The other six depend on Xcel credits in 2012. We won’t know about those until at least spring, but it looks like they’ll be 12 cents per kilowatt hour,” Clark said.

Tuesday’s board meeting was the last for District A representative Diann Rice, who is moving out of the area. Her resignation is effective today.

Rice left some parting compliments for the district and the community as well as some advice for this year’s school board candidates, whom she told to always put students first. She also asked voters to approve a mill levy override the board has placed on the Nov. 1 ballot.

“If you care about this community, if you care about your life here, you will pass this mill levy override,” she said. “If you do not pass this, it is a sign of selfishness.”


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