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Eastern Hancock looking at loan for projects

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock School Board members approved a conditional borrowing plan Monday that officials say will allow the district to complete several needed capital improvements while keeping property taxes from going up.

The board approved a resolution allowing the district to spend money on building maintenance and improvement projects, assuming the district will borrow no more than $800,000 at an interest rate no higher than 3.5 percent.

“But we won’t go over that (borrowing limit) and we also don’t anticipate interest rates to be anywhere near (3.5 percent),” said EH Superintendent Randy Harris.

The district has advertised requests for proposals from financial institutions. Harris said bids will be opened Friday.

EH anticipates picking up some financial headroom at the end of this year when it will pay off its pension bond. Retiring that bond will make room for payments on any capital improvements while keeping property taxes and current financial obligations flat, Harris said.

As the district’s campus, equipment and fixtures pass the 40-year mark, officials say needs are growing.

“We have some capital needs that we need to take care of, and Randy and (EH business manager Jill Muegge) did a phenomenal job putting together a 10-year plan without raising taxes and burdening us financially,” said EH school board President Scott Petry.

 “The buildings are getting up there, and they’re starting to need a little tender loving care and a little more maintenance,” he said.

The projects include a new roof for the middle school; new roof-top air conditioning units; interior and exterior lighting; technology upgrades and renovating restrooms throughout the buildings.

If the money becomes available, Harris said the district will focus on smaller projects up front that can save money in the future such as more efficient lighting and heating systems.

“The outdoor lights here were installed 40 years ago, so with the new LED technology and more efficient heating and cooling systems, the district’s electric bill should go down and save the district some money,” Harris said.

The larger, more expensive projects will come later as the district’s borrowing capacity increases.

“We’ll be borrowing in small chunks,” Petry said.

“We’ll be taking this in bits and pieces, looking at what our payback would be in any given year,” Harris said. “It’s going to be relatively short-term, with payback periods of four to seven years.”

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