By Travis Smola
Even though COVID-19 has caused major disruptions for almost every facet of life, some good news was reported at the Schoolcraft school board meeting: lower interest rates for the district’s upcoming bond project.
The meeting was once again held online via Zoom due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Nathaniel Watson of PFM Financial Advisors LLC was on hand to announce the district obtained investors through Stifel, Nicolaus & Company Inc. This is the same company that helped refinance the district’s 2009 bonds last February.
“The municipal bond market really worked in our favor the last two or three weeks,” Watson said.
Through the backing of the state and the district’s excellent credit ratings, they were able to obtain lower financing rates. Watson said the true interest cost came in slightly below 3.3%. When the ballot language was put together, the rate was estimated at four percent. Since it is a 30-year bond, Watson said he expects they could reduce them again in 2030 and 2040. However, even if they are not, he said it was a “wonderful” outcome for the community.
After fees and cost of issuance, the project will have $39,746,000 to work with. Watson said that is $856,000 more than they projected going into their treasury meetings. Superintendent Rusty Stitt and many of the board members said they were thrilled with the good news.
Trustee Jill Hunt gave a short update on the progress of the project, which is already working on plans for the seventh and eighth grade gym and classroom additions. They are also starting to consider exactly where the new kindergarten through sixth grade building will stand on the school property. She said early considerations must account for things like where food services vehicles will travel onto the property. Hunt said they would already be looking at early conceptual plans for the seventh and eighth grade classroom additions the following week.
“We expect to narrow that (the conceptual plans) to a couple of options and then take it to a larger committee for some community feedback,” she said. “All in all, things are going pretty well.”
There were also some discussions about how classes would look in the fall. More specifically, Board President Jennifer Gottschalk wanted to know what the determining factor would be about a decision on face-to-face learning vs a hybrid online schedule when classes resume.
Superintendent Rusty Stitt said the decision would hinge mostly upon the Governor’s executive orders. If social distancing is still needed in the fall, major schedule changes are being considered. The three biggest possibilities are a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, alternating days of instruction or an a.m.-p.m. schedule that may come into play. Stitt said there will be a committee with staff involvement to look at the possibilities in the coming months.
“There are a lot of options that we need to look at related to our programming for next school year,” Stitt said. “We don’t know what we are going to get from Lansing.”
By Travis Smola