Refinance could generate $2.2M for county

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Low interest rates could generate $2.2 million in additional revenue if commissioners refinance the county’s $7 million in outstanding general obligation bonds, a Birmingham investment group said Monday.

Walter Lewis with Gardnyr Michael Capital Public Finance, a Birmingham investment banking group, presented the figures at Monda-y’s commission meeting.

Lewis likened the county’s bond refinancing to refinancing one’s mortgage.

“When you can go from a high interest rate to a low one, it’s a smart financial decision,” Lewis said.

Currently, the county has a 2002 and 2005 series of outstanding GO warrants, of which only 80.5 percent of the 2005 series are eligible for refinancing, Lewis said. Balance on the 2002 series is $1.025 million, with a 4.03 percent interest rate and an annual payment of $232,838. Payoff is in 2017. The 2005 series has a principal balance of just over $6 million with a current payoff in 2032. The annual payment is $552,000 or $46,000 per month. At its current 4.32 percent interest rate, payoff is slightly more than $10 million.

“It makes sense to look at refinancing the 2002 and the 2005 bonds because of the interest rates,” Lewis said. “And we can keep the same debt service, meaning that you keep paying what you’re comfortable paying now and generate money to do some of those projects that you’d like to do.”

Bond money must be used for capital improvement projects such as road paving or construction projects.

Under Lewis’ proposal, if the county finances a total of $9.1 million (both bond series combined) with an average percentage rate of 3.4 percent, it would reduce the county’s annual bond payments from $550,000 to $533,000, plus generate $2.2 million in additional funds. It would extend the payoff date from 2032 to 2042, since it would be a 30-year loan, he said.

If the county chooses to take the additional $2.2 million, a total of $7.775 million in outstanding debt would be refinanced, which would save $452,000 over the life of the bond.

“The terms are the same; the payoff is the same,” Lewis said of the proposal. “With rates this low, I’m sure you can find something (a project) that needs to be done. And you wouldn’t exceed your current debt service.”

Commissioners tabled the discussion to allow for further discussion.

In other business, the commission approved final settlement figures for insolvents, litigation and errors for the county’s ad valorem collections, proclaimed June 18-24 as Amateur Ham Radio Operator Week and approved out-of-state travel for Sheriff Dennis Meeks to attend the National Sheriff’s Conference in Nashville, Tenn., next week.