The Baldwin County school board last night at its regular meeting approved a motion to refinance $89.4 million from a 2007 construction bond, a move that will save the school system about $10.4 million over time.
The construction bonds, originally issued at 4.82 percent, were refinanced at 2.90 percent while tax-exempt interest rates were near their lowest, according to John Wilson, Baldwin County schools chief financial officer.
Wilson told the board the decision will save the school system money over the course of the loan and will not increase any debt incurred by the system.
In other business, the board approved a motion to negotiate the purchase of land near Foley High School for an “outdoor classroom.” According to school officials, the purchase would more than than double the size of the 20-acre property that’s already owned by the board.
Currently, the land is used by the high school’s Agriculture Academy as a working farm, giving students an opportunity to put their skills into action.
With three teachers and more than 600 students involved in STEM education, which includes science, technology, engineering and math classes, the purchase would allow the academy to develop a fully-functional enterprise. According to the proposal, much of the existing land is too wet to be used for farming.
Additionally, the proposal states it would keep the purchase similar to the cost of a traditional classroom and not exceed $300,000.
Superintendent Robbie Owen reiterated to the board that the land would only be purchased if the system’s proposed 8-mill property tax increase passes in March. At that time, the motion would have to come back to the board for final approval, he said.
The board also approved a budget amendment to be submitted to the Alabama State Department of Education to reflect a general fund balance of $39.5 million, which officials said represents a healthy two-month reserve ending fund balance.
Further, the board approved the school system’s 2015-16 school calendar. Three different options were voted on by personnel, with 751 votes for option one compared to 458 votes for option two and 369 votes for option three.
A few important dates on the newly approved calendar are as follows:
· Aug. 13: First day of school
· Sept. 7: Labor Day
· Oct. 12: Fall Break
· Nov. 23-27: Thanksgiving Holiday
· Dec. 21-31: Christmas Holidays
· Jan. 18: Martin Luther King Holiday
· Feb. 8-9: Mardi Gras Holiday
· March 28-April 1: Spring Break
· May 18-19: Graduation