Minden Press-Herald

Oct 02nd

Tax for Doyline school lowered

Doyline taxpayers have a reason to celebrate: a new tax the voters passed in District 7 for a $10 million bond to finance construction will not cost them any more than they are currently paying.

"I am very pleased for all the taxpayers because they were willing to do it for the higher mils," said member Penny Long, who represents the Doyline area. "It is just a blessing that it comes in lower."

"This (bond) will be used to pay for the expansion of the school created under the consolidation plan," said Grant Schleuter, bond attorney for the Webster Parish School Board.

Doyline has consolidated from two schools into one. Union Elementary has closed and will merge into Doyline High School this year.

According to Schleuter, voters approved the property tax last year in anticipation of a seven-mil increase, which would have raised the millage to slightly more than 42 mils.

"We were able to reduce that because property value increased nicely in the Doyline area since the election," he said. "We were able to reduce the mils down to 38, making it a 3-mil increase in what they are currently paying."

"But it gotten even better," Schleuter continued. "When we sold these bonds, we sold them for lower than we expected."

Due to a low interest rate of 3.99 percent on the bonds, which was possible because of an "A" credit rating, the millage rate should remained at 35 mils.

"The low interest rate is a direct result of the "A" rating of the Webster Parish School Board," Schleuter said. "They got that rating in large part because they made painful decisions in how to cut costs."

"Another factor is property tax base in the Doyline school district has been going up nicely each year, which means that each mil of tax produces a little bit more," Schleuter continued. "All that means there are less payments each year on the bond, which means we do not need as much property taxes from Doyline taxpayers to pay the bond."

Factors that make up an "A" rating include local economy, school board finances and tax base.

"The single biggest factor the school board controls is their own finances and whether or not they maintain a healthy fund balance (reserve or savings)," Schleuter said. "The rating agencies like to see, in general, 10 percent fund balance."

Schleuter said historically the board has had more than 10 percent of the operating budget in reserve.

"I think they had close to 18 to 20 percent, but they had to draw that down to pay operating expenses because financially they were having problems with increased expenses and declining revenues and so forth," he said. "So, the belt tightening by cutting expenses through some of the consolidation matters is helping them preserve that 10 percent fund balance."

According to interim superintendent Jackie Sharp, the bonds will be used for an additional wing of classrooms built to accommodate the influx of elementary students, as well as temporary buildings to be purchased and placed at the Doyline school until construction is complete.

The bonds will also pay for a multi-purpose room, refurbishing the existing school building and enlargement of the kitchen and cafeteria area.

"The school is not adequate for a K-12, so we will be enlarging it," Sharp said.

Schleuter said the time line to issue the bonds was very tight.

"It has been a rushed job," the attorney said.

According to Schleuter, issuing the bonds was held up – even though they were authorized last year – until the consolidation plan was finalized and approved by a federal judge.

"After that was done, that is when we were able to schedule the bond sale as quickly as possible," he said. "Knowing that Doyline would need it, we are going to close on August 2 to provide money exactly when they need it for the buildings that are being delivered."

A meeting with the architect Monday, July 18 is scheduled to look at the floor plan and to come up with a time line for construction and letting of bids.ꆱ






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