MOULTRIE -- Colquitt County Schools hit the market just right to get more bang for the taxpayers' buck.

The school district is issuing $14.42 million in general obligation sales tax bonds at an average borrowing cost of 1.96 percent. Of the 35 school special purpose local option sales taxes (SPLOST) in the state that financial agent Bryce Holcomb has been involved with since 1997, this is the lowest rate he's seen, he said. Holcomb represents Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. of Atlanta

"I'd love to have that rate as my home mortgage rate. That's a super rate," he said.

The marketing tool used in credit markets details the finances, profiles the school board, the management team and the community.

Colquitt County Schools will use the bond money for continued facility renovation, including additions to Cox Elementary School, second constructional phases at Funston and Hamilton Elementary Schools and second phase of construction and renovation at C.A. Gray Middle School. Gymnasiums would be built at Doerun, Funston, Hamilton, Okapilco and Stringfellow Elementary Schools, where currently there are none. Plus, a comprehensive 214-acre athletic complex and a new facility for school bus maintenance will be constructed.

One SPLOST for massive renovations has already been collected ($20 million plus). And the district began collection of a second $23.5 million SPLOST in January. However, anticipated sales tax revenues over the next five years may only produce $21,372,637, financial projections indicate.

The bonds will provide working money for projects -- several are up for bids in April -- as the district collects sales tax revenues.

Holcomb estimates the district can reinvest unused bond money at a rate of at least 1.5 percent to offset costs. SPLOST revenues might earn interest of 2.75 percent.

Citigroup pursued an underlying Standard and Poor's rating, and the school district got a very favorable "A-". By comparison, Statesboro also got an "A-" and it boasts a state university.

"You should be extremely proud of that. There's a lot of things that go into an underlying credit rating. They really look under the rug, so to speak," Holcomb said, listing profiles of the local community and economy, profiles of the school board and the management team, the district budget.

"Given your size and location within the state and the economics around this area, the 'A-' rating is a very fair rating ... which speaks very highly how conservative this board is with its reserve levels, the management team you have here and how well you've managed your resources here," he said.

Within the state, the bonds will be marketed by 425 brokers in 17 Georgia offices, he said. March 3 is the closing date for the bond issuance.





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