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Belle Vernon Area mulls bond refinance

| Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP — The Belle Vernon Area school board will consider refinancing 2007 and 2008 bond issues in an effort to reap savings.

Last year, the district benefited by nearly $815,000 by refinancing past bonds.

According to Scott Shearer, of Public Finance Management, the district has $9.5 million outstanding in its 2007 bond and $9.4 million outstanding in its 2008 bond.

"Although you have two bonds that you can refinance, you only want to focus on one of them," Shearer said. "We'd recommend targeting the 2008 bond.

"Then, if you choose, once you get into next calendar year you can look at refinancing the other."

If the board decides to refinance the 2008 bond, Shearer said the district could save $200,000 to $250,000.

"After you would approve us to do so, we would start putting together a parameters resolution," Shearer said. "Shortly thereafter, you're able to get your savings."

Shearer warned that considering interest rates and a volatile market, the board shouldn't expect anything near the money received after refinancing last year.

"That $200,000 to $250,000 range is what we're seeing for local district rates," Shearer said.

Director John Nusser asked Shearer about the economic drivers for interest rates.

Shearer said the recession in the United States and economic uncertainty overseas are main factors. He noted that many investors becoming interested in municipal bonds again.

Board President Aaron Bialon said he and his colleagues will discuss the matter and render a decision at its April meeting.

"We're just going to sit on it and hold the matter over so we have time as a board to look at the options," Bialon said.

Solicitor Gregory Gleason asked Shearer if there was further risk to the district if the board decided to wait a short period of time before deciding.

Shearer said the interest rate likely would stay at current levels.

"This is what we're seeing across the state. Do you do it now, or do you wait?" Shearer said.

During public comment, Carol Metrosky, of Rostraver Township, said she found a number of errors in a list of teacher salaries obtained from the district.

"I'm not a CPA," Metrosky said. "But the numbers just don't add up."

Bialon told Metrosky that errors sometimes occur, and asked her to report them to the board or Superintendent Stephen Russell.

"I'm just asking that so we can have the information before you bring them before us here," Bialon said. "I don't have a salary listing here in front of me."

Director Joe Grata assured Metrosky the board would request a reconciliation of the figures.

"I understand that sometimes errors occur," Metrosky said. "But how do we know that errors aren't occurring elsewhere• We are in a serious financial situation here in the district."

Resident Tom West asked if there has been discussion about going to half-day kindergarten.

"There has been no formal discussion on that subject," Bialon said. "If there was a need for that, it would be discussed and voted on during a public meeting."

In other business, the board — based on a request by Gleason — tabled a motion to award a refuse collection bid to Bigs Sanitation.

Gleason said he would discuss the request in executive session.

Dr. John Wilkinson, who will take over as superintendent July 1, attended the meeting.

During the superintendent's report, Russell said he asked Wilkinson to join him in decision making.

"Since the superintendent-elect will be responsible for what we do next school year, it is only right that we have his input now," Russell said. "My observations of Dr. Wilkinson are that he's hardworking, sincere, knowledgeable and creative. His strongest quality is strategic planning.

"I ask the BVA community to join me in full support of Dr. Wilkinson."

In other business the board:

• Adopted the 2012-2013 school calendar.

The first day of instruction for students will be Aug. 27, with the last day of classes and graduation is tentatively scheduled for June 3, 2013.

• Approved an $6,900 agreement with The Eric Ryan Corp. to provide a comparison summary of Energy Service Company proposals the district receives provide a recommendation for a contract award.

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