|Concept schools aka Horizon Science Academy wants $93 million bond for leaky roof and to (wink-wink) refinance local debt to the tune of $12 million. |
County establishes process to review bond applications
Wednesday, December 8, 2010 02:52 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Franklin County commissioners put a review process in place yesterday that will help them decide whether to approve proposals for tax-exempt private bonds.
Horizon Science Academy wanted to replace a leaky roof this summer, but it needed consent from county commissioners before it could apply for tax-exempt financing, which would result in a lower interest rate compared with a traditional commercial loan.
The county wouldn't invest any taxpayer money, and elected representatives would have to give the OK before tax-exempt bonds are sold.
Commissioner John O'Grady had questioned whether the holdup might cause problems for the publically financed charter school. But Commissioners Marilyn Brown and Paula Brooks pushed to postpone a decision on the charter school's request in August.
The school's parent company, Concept Schools, had planned to issue $93 million in bonds for its chain of Midwest charter schools. About $4 million of that would have gone toward rehabbing the Columbus schools; an additional$12million would have gone toward refinancing local debt.
New Plan Learning, which owns the schools' facilities, approached the county. When asked whether the window for selling the bonds had passed, a New Plan Learning representative said there are future opportunities.
"We respect the commissioners' decision to take things slowly and develop guidelines ... and we feel confident that they will provide the approval because we are a quality organization," Murat Arabaci wrote in an e-mail.
Commissioners said they felt they needed a standard procedure.
The commissioners' approval is mostly a technicality, but they worried that investors would see it as the county vouching for the debtor.
The review process has been delegated to the Columbus-Franklin County Finance Authority Board, a public agency that works to facilitate capital investment in central Ohio. It will be responsible for ensuring that the bonds support a public purpose and for gauging what the market says about the group's credit. The applicant would pay a $3,500 fee.
Commissioners said they put the review process in place because they were concerned the school might be the first of many to seek approval.
But Jean Carter Ryan, executive director of the review board, said she doubts the floodgates have opened. She said some of what made these bonds attractive to banks this year were incentives in the form of federal stimulus funds. Some of those incentives will end next year.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Concept Schools seeks $93 million bond to repair leaky roof and refinance local debt.