New ECC on the way

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School board now looking to 10-classroom facility

By Shannon Brock

Pending a successful bond sale today, the Anderson County Board of Education will move forward with building a new Early Childhood Center.
As it stands, board members have approved going forward with a 14-classroom facility and using up to 90 percent of its Capital Outlay funds, if necessary.
However, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said most likely that won’t be necessary based on discussions during a work session, which preceded Monday night’s meeting.
Board members are now considering building a 10-classroom facility, with the hope of adding additional classrooms at a later date, even if those additional rooms have to be bid separately.
The current ECC houses 12 kindergarten classrooms and four and a half preschool classrooms (preschool is only half a day). Even though those numbers fluctuate from year to year, all of those students would not fit in a 10-classroom building. What that means and where the other students would be housed until additional classrooms are added is still unclear.
The board ultimately decided to move ahead with the project because of the type of financing currently available.
The school district is qualified for a Qualified School Construction Bond.
The QSCB was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and is essentially interest-free financing.
The district is qualified for a 2010 bond allocation of $6,271,930, which was the preliminary estimated cost of a new ECC, including associated fees. That total cost has since increased to upward of $7 million.
The only catch is the bonds must be issued by Dec. 31 of this year. This is why the bond sale is scheduled for today (Wednesday). The sale will close on Dec. 29.
By doing the project now, the district will save around $6 million compared to traditional financing.
“If someone says, if we go forward now, we’ll save $6 million, my only question is can we afford it now,” board chairman Lee Hahn said Tuesday morning.
“Based on the facts and the people we have in place (the finance officer, bonding agent, construction manager and architect), I think now is a good time.
“You have to take advantage of it if you can.”
Chris Bowling, the district’s bonding agent, estimates the district will save roughly $6.4 million in interest.
During the life of the loan, which is 18 years, the district will make equal yearly payments that will be invested in an interest-earning account. Bowling estimates those payments will earn approximately $1.8 million in interest.
This will create a realized savings of $8.2 million.
However, if the project were put off until it could be financed through traditional means, the district might be able to receive funding from the state, which Bowling estimated to be around $2 million. This would bring the total savings to around $6 million if the project is done now.

Contact Shannon Brock via theandersonnews.com.