Opp schools offer compromise on finance question

Published 1:07 am Friday, March 18, 2016

The Opp City Board of Education is ready to compromise with the city of Opp on an ongoing dispute on refinancing a portion of the 2007 bond issue.

The mayor and superintendent have been at odds since mid-January over who should get the estimated $700,000 to $800,000 in savings that would be generated by a refinance.

This portion of the bond issue was set-aside for the building of Opp Elementary School, which opened in 2009. If the city’s 1-cent sales tax doesn’t generate enough money to make the bond payment, the school system uses some of the money it receives from a 4-mill property tax to make up the difference.

To date, that has been about $300,000, according to school officials.

On Thursday, four members of the city council – Bobby Ray Owens, T.D. Morgan, Mike Booth and Mary Brundidge attended the monthly board of education meeting.

There, the BOE and Smithart discussed a proposal they will share with the city council on Monday night.

Their proposal calls for OCS to collaborate with the city to refund that portion of the bond issue.

All funding agreements would be renewed with existing language.

The proceeds would be used for:

• Replacing the existing awning at Channell-Lee Stadium, an estimated $200,000;

• Funding for technology upgrades at Opp City Schools, an estimated $400,000;

• Provide funds for a new roof or repair at Opp Public Library. To repair the cost is estimated at $22,000. It is unknown what the cost would be to replace it.

• Any proceeds in excess of the above prioritized needs are to be used to further the renovations at Channell-Lee Stadium or may be divided equally upon written consent of both the city council and board of education.

Officials said they would accept proposals from different investment companies to ensure the most advantageous results.

Funds would be transferred from the city of Opp to the Opp City Schools and a full accounting would be maintained.

Smithart said they would provide this with the council in hopes that the two parties could reach an agreement.

“All we can do is present to the city council,” Smithart said. “It’s in their court.”

Board attorney Wes Laird said he thought the board could get a lower rate because the school board’s rating would be higher than the city’s.

“We hope to get it moving forward,” he said.

Morgan said he has asked for the bond issue to be on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting.

“I’m hoping we can get something resolved for the benefit of the school system,” he said.

Owens and Booth said they plan to study the proposal.

“We want to do what’s in the best interest of our city,” Owens said. Owens is the only sitting council member who was on the council when the initial bond issue was secured.

Booth pledged his support for Opp City Schools at the last meeting, saying he was 100 percent behind the system, but said he hoped they could reach a happy medium.