The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 11, 2013

Lewisburg school board to hear bond, debt presentation

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

LEWISBURG — LEWISBURG — A municipal financing firm will outline bond pricing, debt management and other financial issues related to the proposed high school project during a specially scheduled Lewisburg school board meeting on Wednesday.

The financial discussion is one of about five agenda items for the public meeting, set to start at 8 p.m. in the large-group instruction room at the Donald H. Eichhorn Middle School, Superintendent Mark DiRocco said. A vote on a new business manager also may be taken during the meeting.

The main appearance, however, will be PFM Financial Advising Services, of Harrisburg, a company that specifically deals in financing school projects. DiRocco said this firm was among about four recommended by other school districts with recently financed projects.

The school board asked DiRocco to vet several firms and financial advising companies, and he feels most comfortable bringing in PFM for a presentation, he said.

Among topics PFM representatives will touch on are bond counsels, or law firms that ensure all legal steps are followed in issuing a bond, as well as interested bond underwriters and available options “to make the best choices for the high school project’s financing,” DiRocco said. PFM also will advise on whether to float a traditional bond or get bank-qualified loans for the project.

DiRocco said the school district likely is looking at a 25-year bond, “but we could look at any number of years that are cost effective. If it’s going to somehow benefit the district, we can stretch it out, but right now, most school districts are going with 25-year bonds.”

There is no “hard and fast estimate” for the high school project cost yet, DiRocco said, but he expects to have more accurate, updated numbers in January or February. Officials are working under a current estimate of about $31.1 million.

Interest rates at the moment hover between 4.4 percent and 4.8 percent, DiRocco said, a historic low. “We would like to move no later than March to secure an interest rate,” he said. “You never know with interest rates; most economists seem to think rates will rise. To me, this is a good time to issue a bond.”

An archaeological study on the high school site still is under way, he said, hampered by recent weather. DiRocco said he’s hopeful the study will finish this week.