Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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County agrees to issue more bonds for ACC projects, albeit less than the community college had sought

Alamance County’s commissioners have tentatively agreed to issue just over $18.9 million in bonds that the local electorate had approved five years ago in order to fund various projects at Alamance Community College, including a state-of-the-art emergency services training center in the town of Green Level.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the commissioners instructed county staff to prepare a resolution that would enable the county to secure this eight-figure sum from the bond market on October 31.

Yet, the figure that the commissioners have provisionally pledged to obtain falls a bit short of what ACC’s top-ranking official had hoped the county would draw down when it issues these bonds later this month.

In a report to the commissioners on Monday, ACC’s interim president, Larry Keen requested bond proceeds worth $19,296,857 in order to foot the construction costs for both ACC’s training center as well as a collection of upgrades at the community college’s main campus in Graham.

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ACC interim president Larry Keen

Keen insisted that ACC would need the entirety of these funds if it intends to do justice to both sets of projects.

“Both projects have faced cost escalations,” the college’s interim president added, “and the truth of the matter is we need to move forward.”

Keen went on to provide an overall price tag of $24,157,164 for the community college’s training center. He estimated another $5,136,070 to complete the other projects, which include improvements to the Main, Powell, and Gee Buildings on ACC’s main campus.

Keen proceeded to outline some of the funds that ACC already has at the ready to pay for these projects.  In particular, he thanked the county’s legislative delegation for a $5.5 million earmark that’s been set aside in the state budget for an indoor firing range at the proposed training center. In addition to this allocation, he pointed to $596,377 in previously-issued bond proceeds that can be applied to the training center along with another $2 million in ACC’s capital reserves. Keen also alluded to an additional $500,000 in capital reserves and some $1.4 million in state grants that are available for the projects on ACC’s main campus – and he mentioned the possibility of an additional $5.6 million that could come down from Washington, D.C. if and when a new federal budget is ultimately passed.

In the end, Keen told the commissioners that the community college still needs nearly $19.3 million to complete both sets of projects. He went on to ask the commissioners to provide these funds by issuing the remainder of a $39.6 million bond package that area voters approved for ACC in 2018.

“We’re trying to be the best stewards of the resources we are blessed with,” he added. “You have at your fingertips to do something special for Alamance County and the region.”

Ted Cole, a financial consultant with Davenport & Associates, noted that the commissioners have already issued about $20,665,000 of the community college’s bond package. He added that the county’s original plan had been to issue another $15,350,218 or to foot the sundry projects which the community college still has in the pipeline. He conceded, however, that the voters have technically authorized up to $18,935,000 in additional bonds, which he acknowledged could be stretched even further thanks to the “bond premium,” or extra debt issuance, that the county can fetch from the bond market given the amount it has already budgeted to cover the debt payments.

“In the current interest rate environment, that 18.9 million in voter authorization would give you $19.6 million as of last week,” Cole added. “But, you will need to sell most of what’s left in the bond package.”

Cole went on to note that the county can issue these bonds on October 31 and would have the revenue in hand within a period of roughly two weeks.

The community college’s request ultimately drew a mixed response from the county’s governing board.

County commissioner Steve Carter
County commissioner Bill Lashley
County commissioner Craig Turner

Keen’s plea went over particularly well with Steve Carter, the vice chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners who also serves on the community college’s board of trustees.

Yet, the size of the requested figure wasn’t as popular with commissioner Bill Lashley, who declared himself flabbergasted by the fact that the state’s $5.5 million allocation doesn’t seem to have decreased ACC’s reliance on local tax dollars.

“The Alamance County taxpayer doesn’t get a break here,” he declared. “The state came out of the gate last week with $5.5 million. But we’re just spending more money.”

Meanwhile, commissioner Craig Turner insisted on a total bond issue of $18.9 million in order not to exceed the amount the county’s voters had approved in 2018. Turner’s suggestion was quickly endorsed by Lashley as well as commissioner Pam Thompson and John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners.

The five-member board went on to give county staff members an informal nod to prepare a resolution for the figure Turner proposed.

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