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School bonds sold, new buses to be purchased

Washington County has sold the $1.85 million general obligation school bonds, which will provide funds for new school buses.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said the bonds were purchased by a company in Memphis, and the paperwork is being processed for an expected closing date of Nov. 9.
Proceeds from the offering will then be turned over to the county school system, and the Board of Education will have six months, per IRS guidelines, to purchase the buses.
Much discussion has taken place regarding the selection of buses and whether they should contain seat belts, but Eldridge said state statute authorizes school board members to make the choice.
“County commissioners may have input to offer, but the final decision will be made by the Board of Education,” he said.
The review from Moody’s Investors Service assigned an Aa2 rating to the debt issue, which reflects the county’s sizable tax base, strong financial position, and manageable debt burden.
Eldridge said a conference call with Moody’s prior to the report was very positive.
“The three issues that impressed them were we’ve grown our fund balance, expenses are under control, and the property tax is holding steady,” he said.
According to the report, the county’s 7.5 percent unemployment rate in June was below state and national medians, reflecting underlying economic strength.
Moody’s analysts believe conservative budgeting and close monitoring of expenses will enable the overall financial position to remain strong as the county anticipates issuing up to $3.3 million in capital outlay notes by year-end to fund construction and renovation projects to county buildings such as the archive, and other potential projects including the extension of the county’s telephone system, a new asphalt plant, and a new solid waste transfer station.
Low interest rates led officials to choose borrowing the money over using fund balance. Washington County will pay off the $1.85 million for the school buses in seven principal payments over the eight year term at 1.029 percent interest.