County saves money on borrowing — again

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – For the second month in a row, the county was able to save money on a bond issue borrowing.

The County Board Tuesday approved a $3.265 million bond issue to refinance outstanding bonds from 2008 and 2010.

The refinancing will save the county nearly $70,000 in interest costs over the old bonds, Bradley Viegut, managing director of the county’s bond advisors Robert W. Baird & Co., told the supervisors.

“We’re simply exchanging higher interest debt for lower interest debt,” Viegut summarized.

In December, the board approved a $9.5 million bond issue for capital improvement projects that, thanks to lower interest rates, will cost the county $316,000 less in interest payments than had originally been projected when the borrowing was first proposed in October.

Supervisor Fay Uraynar questioned why the two bond issues were not combined as one.

Viegut explained that by making two separate borrowings, the county was able to bring each one in under the $10 million a year ceiling for being designated bank-qualified.

That designation, according to Viegut, allowed the bonds to sell at a lower interest rate.

“The debt issuance expense (for two bonds) was more than offset by the locking in the lower interest rates as bank-qualified,” Viegut stated.

County Administrator Adam Payne, in his report, noted that the board will make an adjustment to the 2016 county budget next month to reflect a change to the Wisconsin Counties Association Group Health Trust to manage the county’s self-insurance health care plan.

That change, Payne told the board, will result in a savings of $1.1 million for the county in health insurance costs. That’s an increase in savings from the $924,000 that was projected by county officials last month.

Payne also informed supervisors that the county has reached an agreement with Tecumseh for a $1.65 million contribution toward the county’s purchase of the Amsterdam Dunes property in the town of Holland.

The county purchased the 330-acre parcel in September 2014 for $4.2 million with the goal of preserving the natural area and creating a wetlands mitigation bank.

The expectation was that, through grants and other funding, the county would be able to recoup all of the purchase price.

Payne noted that, with the Tecumseh funds and a $2.4 million grant from the state Stewardship Fund received last year, the county has already recouped most of that purchase price.

The county still has several small development parcels on the lakefront that could be sold in the future, he said. In addition, the county will be able to earn money by selling wetland mitigation credits once the wetland mitigation bank is up and running on the property.

“This has just been a tremendous success story,” Payne said of the Amsterdam Dunes project. “I think the board made a wise investment.”

Dane Checolinski, director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp., made a presentation to the board on the recently-launched Someplace Better workforce recruitment effort.

“Right now this county has more jobs than people who are willing to work them,” Checolinski told the board. “Job growth in this county has been truly outstanding over the last couple of years, but that has really put a strain on our local labor market.”

The Someplace Better effort, a joint project of the SCEDC and the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce, has created a website (SomeplaceBetter.org) and accompanying literature to help local companies recruit needed workers to Sheboygan County from elsewhere.

“We have armed our companies and their HR departments with the tools they need,” to attract needed new workers, Checolinski stated.


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