Refunding of bonds will save Lindbergh taxpayers $600,000

Lindbergh board honored by Missouri School Boards Association

By MIKE ANTHONY

The refunding of general-obligation bonds issued in 1998 by the Lindbergh School District will save residents more than twice as much as originally projected.

District officials had estimated in November that refunding the general-obligation bonds would save taxpayers more than $254,000. But after selling $8.41 million in bonds last week to refund the 1998 bonds, the savings to taxpayers will total more than $600,000, according to Pat Lanane, assistant superintendent for finance and the district’s chief financial officer.

“… Sometimes you’re called into the game to hit a sacrifice pop fly and every once in a while when you do that, the ball goes out of the park. And we think we have some very good news for you tonight,” Lanane told the Board of Education Jan. 8. “We’ve been talking now for several months and you’ve authorized many documents and many procedures for us to advance refund some bonds that we had that were outstanding.

“And we felt like the timing was good. Well, it turns out that as of today, the timing was great and the savings that we thought we were going to have is more than doubled … It was a very good day …,” the chief financial officer added.

Referring to financial adviser Joy Howard of WM Financial Strategies, Lanane said, “… We set an all-time record in her career for the number of competitive bids that were received today. We had 17 bids …

“We’ve actually given some seminars on why you want to do competitive bidding for bonds and today we were the best proof of our own preaching, I think.

“It really resulted in a great savings for the taxpayers, and I would remind you and I would remind the members of the press here, the savings that we’re talking about today accrue totally to the taxpayers of this school district. There’s not one more dime for the administration to spend on anything …” he said, noting the savings totaled $617,445.

Lanane told the Call that Howard believes the number of bids received by the district — 17 — is the largest number for any sale in the history of Missouri bond sales.

During the meeting, Howard outlined why she thought the district’s bond sale was so successful.

“Why did you do so phenomenally well during the short two-month period since we all began working on this issue? And basically three different things happened. One is that the market moved in our favor, which we’d like to think we’re all smart in timing that, but we happened to be very lucky,” she said. “No. 2 is a little bit of smart. It’s something that’s called the January effect, which is all of the broker/dealers and the banks try to close up their books in December … They kind of start shutting down and they’re not very interested in buying securities. They want everything out of their inventory.

“And so when January comes around, it’s just the opposite. They’re real anxious to get bonds to buy and sell again, and we hit the market real early in the year and so some of the benefit in interest rates we’re getting is above and beyond the general market. It’s this January effect,” Howard continued.

“And then last but not least, it’s absolutely congratulations to you all because you have a phenomenally high bond rating …,” she said, referring to the district’s Aa2 bond rating issued by Moody’s Investors Service.

The board voted unanimously to approve the sale of the bonds to Bank of America, which submitted the best bid.

“They’re actually purchasing these bonds for their own portfolio and not for resale to any retail customers,” Bob Ballsrud of Gilmore & Bell, the district’s bond counsel, told the Board of Education. “So sometimes the questions come up: ‘Are these bonds available for members of the community to purchase?’ and the answer is no because Bank of America is buying these for their own portfolio.”

He added, “The interest rate on the entire issue is 3 percent. That’s relatively rare for something like this …”

In a separate matter last week, Missouri School Boards Association Executive Director Carter Ward recognized the Board of Education for being one of six finalists for Missouri’s Outstanding Board of Education for 2007 — an honor that was bestowed upon the Northwest Board of Education.

Before presenting the honor, Ward said, “… What I’d like to do is kind of speak to the audience because this award — school-board members, you all understand, are elected by the community and even though the Board of Education is actually receiving this award, it is our strong belief that you are receiving this on behalf of the Lindbergh School District … What makes school board members very, very special people is that they don’t only volunteer, they volunteer to put their name on a ballot.

“So it’s not just a matter of having the right heart and the right attitude toward service, but you have to run for election and get elected to these positions that these people hold — volunteers, elected people who are running for the purpose of making a difference in their community and the lives of boys and girls …,” he said.

“This award is very distinguishing in terms of the professionalism, the leadership that this board has displayed — there is a long process and criteria that this board had to fulfill to get to the final six in the state of Missouri. As (Superintendent) Dr. (Jim) Sandfort already pointed out, 524 school districts all began as eligible for this award. Six were the finalists.

“In terms of the criteria for this award, I think it’s also important for you to understand that this involves a personal commitment, not just a board commitment. They had to be involved in professional development, professional training, obtaining certification in terms of the work that is necessary to be effective in carrying out the policy work, the visioning and the leadership for the school district. Not only have they acted collectively in this area, as I’ve said, they’ve also acted individually carrying out these responsibilities,” Ward continued.

“The final thing that really separates a lot of districts out of this is that this is a data-driven, results-oriented award. It’s not just filling out paperwork. In order to qualify for this award, the Lindbergh School District for five years has had to have their students — based on the MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) assessment — achieve at above the 50-percent level five consecutive years. In addition to that, the school district for five consecutive years, their students had to perform on the MAP test in the 50 percentile in terms of gains in student improvement and student achievement. To give you some idea of how difficult that is, there were only less than 30 school districts out of 524 that achieved those two objectives. Your school district was one of those …,” he said.