Jacksonville BoE finalizes bond deal for school construction
by Laura Gaddy
Feb 18, 2014 | 4066 views |  0 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Jacksonville Board of Education on Monday finalized a bond deal that will give the district $8.6 million for new school construction.

The Montgomery-based financial firm Merchant Capital secured the money for the school system earlier this month and the board's vote gives the company permission to legally finish the deal, said Jacksonville schools' Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell. The step should also make the $8.6 million available to the schools for the first time today, but Campbell said officials have no plans to begin spending it immediately.

"It's like closing on a house," Campbell said.

Ken Funderburk, an investment banker with Merchant Capital, spoke at the meeting prior to the board's vote. He said the school system's new bond debt will be paid back in $270,000 annual payments. About $170,000 of that amount will be paid by the city, and about $100,000 of that amount will be paid with state money the schools receive for construction and repair projects.

Adding $4 million the city took out for school construction last year, the system now has $12.6 million to build a new elementary school.

"We were able to do a great bond issue for this system," Funderburk said.

The bond market took a turn for the worse in the last few months of 2013, Funderburk said, and school officials were expecting between $1 million and $2 million less money in the deal.

"With the bond market move last year, we got really concerned," said school board member Mike Poe, who abstained from the vote due to a potential conflict of interest with his work as a financial adviser. "In January, it really swung in our favor and we're back where we started."

Also during the meeting, Kitty Stone Principal Christy Hamilton and Jacksonville High School Principal Rick Carter provided reports on school discipline and academic performance.

Hamilton said the school’s attendance rates are up and that fewer students have been reported to the office for discipline this year. She credited some of the success to a new program the faculty uses to recognize and reward students who have good conduct reports and attendance rates.

"We want to recognize these kids in a positive manner," Hamilton said.

With ACT scores on par with, or above, national rates, Carter said the numbers indicate Jacksonville High students will be prepared for college and life after graduation.

"They were doing it right before I got here," said Carter, who is in his first year at the school. "Jacksonville has just always gone above and beyond the minimum standards that the state puts out."

Carter's report also said the high school’s 2013 graduation rate was 90 percent, up 5 percentage points from 2012. This year’s graduating class includes 107 students.

Campbell said there is a link between the gains being made at the elementary and high schools.

"It's all interconnected," Campbell said. "They don't get to the level of having a 23 ACT score unless they've got the foundation at the elementary school."

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

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