Bond refunding to save Lindbergh citizens $254,000

Goal of raising $100,000 set for Spirit of Lindbergh Fund

By MIKE ANTHONY

The refunding of general-obligation bonds issued in 1998 by the Lindbergh School District is expected to save district residents more than $254,000.

The Board of Education voted unanimously last week to approve a resolution authorizing the sale of $8.52 million in general-obligation bonds to refund general-obligation bonds issued by the district in 1998.

Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane estimated the savings to district residents at $254,314.56.

The resolution also authorizes the hiring of Gilmore & Bell as bond counsel and Joy Howard of WM Financial Strategies as financial adviser to the district.

During the Nov. 13 Board of Education meeting, Lanane said, “I think many of the board members will recall we have done this same kind of refunding in the past.

“There’s really only one reason to ever do a bond refunding and that’s simply to save the taxpayers money. There are no benefits that accrue to the school district. That doesn’t give us any more money to spend. It doesn’t give us any less, but it doesn’t give us any more money to spend on any of the projects.

“It simply results in our debt-service payments being decreased, and so it’s the right thing to do from a fiscal stewardship standpoint. Basically, this resolution would do two things. It authorizes you to sell $8,520,000 of bonds to pay off the 1998 series. It authorizes the employment of Gilmore & Bell as the bond counsel. That’s who we’ve used in previous bond issues.

“Their rate has stayed exactly the same. The fee of $23,000 corresponds to the rate that they gave us on our very first bond issue with them. So that has been a very good relationship,” Lanane continued. “It is absolutely mandatory to have this bond-counsel opinion. You can’t sell the bonds as tax-exempt without it.”

Regarding Howard, he said, “She’s, again, one of the only — I think the only independent financial adviser in the state. She’s not connected with any of the bond companies. She simply does the financial advisory work, which … I had her include in her proposal what some of those steps are and it’s considerable … but very necessary work and she’s done great work for us …”

While the savings to taxpayers are estimated at more than $254,000 — the actual amount won’t be determined until the bonds are sold through an open, competitive sale.

“That’s a little less than we normally would have brought to you, but time is running out on this,” Lanane explained. “The good news is when we sold this issue originally, the rates were at an all-time low. So that means you’ve got to wait longer and longer to get — I usually like to be around a 3-percent net savings on it. We’re at about 2.5 (percent), but if we wait much longer, we’re going to lose our window to do anything.

“So I want to kind of grab the savings for the taxpayers and move on … So that’s what we propose and we just think that this is maybe our last good opportunity to have them cash this bond series out and get the savings that we can accrue at this point,” Lanane said.

In a separate matter Nov. 13, Superintendent Jim Sandfort announced the Superintendent’s Challenge for 2007-2008 would benefit teacher mini-grants with the goal of raising $100,000 for the Spirit of Lindbergh Fund.

Once again, Sandfort pledged to match each dollar contributed up to $5,000. Last year, he pledged to match each dollar contributed up to $5,000 for student leadership training to help offset the loss of revenue due to a new districtwide wellness initiative.

“… Last year’s challenge grant was so successful we thought it would be worthwhile to try it again,” Sandfort said. “We had contributions that totaled last year more than $10,000 and that was not including the board commitment for $5,000 a year for three years to be sure that we did not lose any momentum with developing student-leadership skills. I’d like to renew that challenge this year to the community — only for a different cause and that’s for teacher mini-grants to support creative and innovative classroom practices.

“Several years ago, the Lindbergh Scholarship Fund had dual purposes. One was to promote student scholarships and they have since raised a considerable amount of money, which has been invested there and we will draw down some interest on that investment to fund scholarships. And another purpose was to fund teacher mini-grants, and the teacher mini-grant fund never really accumulated enough capital to make it ongoing, and so I would like to use the 2008 Superintendent’s (Challenge) to jump start that fund.

“Once again, I will match every donation up to the first $5,000 in hopes of accumulating a lot more than that. So if you have friends in the community who would like to continue encouraging creativity and innovation in the classroom, this would be an excellent time to do it … I think the timing is absolutely correct on this. With all that has transpired regarding the No Child Left Behind Act, there’s a perception that creativity, innovation is being restricted and there’s not as much energy in new ideas.

“And so while the grants are called mini-grants, they’re designed to continue that legacy in (the) Lindbergh School District of encouraging creativity and innovation through the classroom and it’s really a tribute to the teaching staff because it’s the teaching staff that does the work day in and day out that helps us meet all the standards, all the requirements that we have from the state and feds and all the … expectations we set for ourselves.”

The goal, Sandfort said, is to raise enough capital to invest that money to earn enough interest to fund the mini-grants.

A committee comprised of former Lindbergh Teachers of the Year will review and evaluate the grant applications with the goal of awarding the first mini-grants in October 2008.

“We’ve already had the Lindbergh Scholarship Foundation express a willingness to fund two mini-grants for the coming year, so we’re already off and running,” the superintendent said. “We need to raise some more money. The challenge is out there so you can open your wallets tonight. You can write big checks tonight if you want or you can send them in, but we’d love to see this funded at a significant level so that we will be using only interest.”

Board of Education President Mark Rudoff said, “Dr. Sandfort, thank you for your generosity and your willingness to match the gifts up to $5,000 …”

Sandfort replied, “Looking forward to it.”

Referring to a brochure about the Superintendent’s Challenge, he added, “… There’s a line in here: ‘This year, with your help, we hope to raise $100,000 …’ That is absolutely correct. I would like nothing more than to end up raising $100,000 this year …”