District gets good deal on SFMS interest rate

by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor

Sheboygan Falls School District Business Manager Mary Blaha had some good news to report at the Sheboygan Falls School Board monthly meeting Monday, April 17.

During the administrative reports portion of the meeting, Blaha informed the board that the district has received a betterthan anticipated 3.19-percent interest rate on its borrowing for the new Sheboygan Falls Middle School building, which is scheduled to break ground this summer.

Blaha said the low interest rate is due to the district’s good credit record and history of strong financial management.

“Our solid rating, Aa3, created a lot of interest when our financial consultant, Lisa Voisin of R.W. Baird, went to market with the board-approved issuance of $20.9 million in general obligation bonds,” Blaha said. “The way she structured our debt, combined with the great competition for the bonds, resulted in the district being able to lock in a very competitive rate of 3.19 percent.”

In describing the low rate, Blaha pointed to the strategic efforts of the School Board to pay down existing debt, maintain the fund balance and address future budget issues as they arise.

“Strong fiscal management contributed to the strong bond rating and the low interest rate for the taxpayers,” Blaha said. “The blending of the 3.19 percent interest rate for the most recent borrowing combined with the rate the district received for the first $9.33 million of general obligation bonds in February brings the total final financing rate for the project to 3.29 percent.

Blaha noted that the low interest rate will allow district taxpayers to save a large amount of money over the next 20 years on the $30.23 million dollar project.

“The interest rate turned out to be .56-percent less than what we originally estimated when calculating the referendum costs,” Blaha said. “This means taxpayers will be paying $2,505,800 less in interest costs over the life of the bonds than what we had estimated.

“We aren’t paying less for the building, but we are paying less for the money we are borrowing to build it,” Blaha said. “It is like getting a good deal on a mortgage interest rate if you own a home.

“This is a very exciting day for our district,” she said. “It is really a great thing for the community.”

In other business, the board approved a $38,396 gift to the district from the Friends of Falcon Families, covering the purchase of playground equipment for Sheboygan Falls Elementary School.

The gift includes $20,861 for a ropeventure and $17,535 for a Rev8 merry-go-round.

The board also accepted a $500 gift from Sheboygan Oil Co. for use in high school science STEM classes.

The board approved the resignation of seventh-grade teacher Karen Wodach for the 2016-17 school year, as well as the resignation of elementary school special education teacher Lisa Drehmel for the 2017-18 school year.

In addition, the board accepted the retirement of high school special education teacher Deb Wehrman.

The first reading of 30 NEOLA board policy updates earned approval.

Board President John Mauer was selected to serve as the district’s delegate to attend the annual CESA 7 Convention in Green Bay on May 10.

During her report on the 2017-18 district budget, Blaha said she is hopeful that a discussed increase in per pupil state categorical aid comes to fruition.

“I have optimism that Governor Walker’s recommendation to increase per pupil categorical aid will happen,” Blaha said. “There has been talk of increasing per pupil aid by $150 or even $200, which would be great.

“There are many pieces of the budget that are still in play,” she said. “Open enrollment ends this month, which is one part of it. We will start putting it all together in May and then get a report ready to present to the board for the May 15th meeting.”

During a discussion of the middle school site plan, Mauer brought up concerns regarding the inclusion of dry retention ponds.

“I have heard from several people who are concerned about the dry ponds and it was brought up again at the Plan Commission meeting with the city,” Mauer said. “Frankly, as a board we’ve also had some questions about them. We don’t really know all the details of how much water they typically hold. More work needs to be done for us to determine what is best.”

District Administrator Jean Born stated that additional visual representations of the dry ponds will be displayed soon.

“I think it would be helpful to see the layers of the pond design,” Born said. “I would like to see the level of detail in order to be completely comfortable. I would like a little more clarity before we can give a definitive answer on how to proceed.”

During the administrative reports portion of the meeting, Born stated that state Sen. Duey Stroebel has proposed putting a cap on the ability of school districts to pass recurring operating budget referendums.

“Duey Strobel is proposing to enact penalties on state aid for districts that pass these referendums,” Born said. “They have talked about 20-percent cuts in state aid for these cases. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of support for this at least at the local level, but it is something we need to keep track of.”

High School Principal Luke Goral discussed the high level of student achievement in robotics, FBLA, forensics, solo ensemble and FFA, noting that several students were recognized for their efforts in these activities at the recent spring school pep rally.

High School Athletic Director Jake Beschta acknowledged Clark Otte on his nomination for the State High School Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award, which will be announced at a ceremony at Lambeau Field on May 12.

He also noted that Otte has been selected as one of the 32 finalists for the State Scholar- Athlete Award to become just the second SFHS athlete to ever achieve that feat.

Born recognized district speech therapist Sheila Kloepping, who is scheduled to receive a Kohl Fellowship Award on April 22.

District of Instruction Mary Blahnik discussed the district’s plan to distribute Chromebook computers to students in third through 12th grade as part of the new 1-to-1 program starting next year.

In addition, Born stated the groundbreaking ceremony for the new middle school building is tentatively scheduled to take place Thursday, June 1 at noon. She said the date and time would be confirmed within the next week.

During the board committee reports portion of the meeting, Born noted that construciton on the new bleachers at Zell Field will begin following the Vanderpan track and field meet on Friday, May 5.

The next Sheboygan Falls School Board meeting will take place Monday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

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