Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 8, 2013

Allegany commissioners to discuss state of county

Elected officials to vote on proposal to fund new Allegany High School

CUMBERLAND — Before the president’s State of the Union address and before Gov. Martin O’Malley’s State of the State address, Allegany County commissioners will be discussing the state of the county on Thursday at the Allegany County Commission meeting.

Commissioners will also vote on a proposal to fund a new Allegany High School and, prior to the open business meeting, will hold an executive session.

While the county has struggled with reductions in state and federal funding over the past year, there is some bright news — a planned debt refinancing could save the county upwards of a million dollars. Commissioners approved the refinancing last year and the bonds will likely go to market in March.

The first round of loans involves the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other loans, which should result in savings of about $120,000. A much larger general obligation debt will result in “huge savings,” county Finance Director Jason Bennett has said, at about $1.2 million.

The interest rates on the larger debts run between 3 percent and 5.75 percent. Bennett’s hope is to get the refinancing at about 2 percent.

“We’re not going to extend the terms ... this does not stretch it out,” Bennett said.

While the financial issues are complex, the idea is simple: The county will issue new bonds at lower interest rates than the bonds previously issued.

The county pays less interest on the debt, creating savings and taking a bit of pressure off the county budget.

The move could save $385,000 in 2013 alone.

The business meeting of the commission will take place at 5 p.m. at county offices on Kelly Road.

On Thursday, commissioners plan to vote on borrowing $9.2 million toward the new Allegany High School.

The money was recently added to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.

Board of education contributions bring the local share of the project to $12.2 million.

The school will be designed to seat 719 students, with some changes in that number possible, county officials said.

Demolition costs for the 500,000 square feet of buildings at the former Braddock Hospital site are estimated at about $2 million.

The current Allegany High School was built in 1925.

The board of education decided to build a new high school after spending more than two years studying how best to reconfigure its secondary schools.

Preliminary estimates show the county would pay a total of about $13 million toward the estimated $34 million project.

In addition, commissioners will hold an executive session at 4 p.m. to deal with a matter involving public safety and a personnel matter.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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