‘Brexit’ could mean bond savings for UCF

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Refi plan for UHS bonds could net $450K annually

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

CashPileEAST MARLBOROUGH — While the pending departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union may be sewing chaos in world financial markets, it appears that the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District may be able to benefit from “Brexit” by refinancing the bonds that paid for the renovation of Unionville High School.

Although bond interest rates had been slowly rising through the first half of 2015, concerns over the impact of “Brexit” and a worldwide economic slowdown began to push rates lower in the second half of the year — and since UK voters opted to leave, the markets have seen an additional drop of some 50 basis points (.5%), meaning that the district could save more than $450,000 a year in debt service costs be refinancing the bonds three years ahead of the date they typically can be called.

John Frey of PFM Advisors and Ed Murray of Boenning Scattergood made a presentation to the Board of Education Monday night at its work session detailing the options the district has to save money over the remaining life of the bonds, through 2032.

Murray — a former UCF board member — walked the board through the moderately complex process that would require advance funding the payoff of the bonds in 2019, but lock in the current “historically” low bond interest rates. His estimate is that the district could save $5.84 million by moving forward to refinance the entire package. Two other options would call for staged refinancing, which would be a bit of bet that interest rates either stay low or go down — but meaning potentially more savings for the district. Even a small increase in rates, though, Murray cautioned, would wipe out the savings and a larger increase — would cost the district money.

The board seemed to be in consensus that refinancing the entire amount was the safest route — and the board is likely to move ahead with that option formally in September.

In other news, the board appears to moving toward making its Wellness Committee a permanent standing committee of the board. Currently, the ad-hoc committee is made up of board members, administrators, teachers, students and parents. Going forward, the committee would just have board members — as is the case with all other board committees — but have an advisory council, much like Curriculum does currently.

Unionville High School Vice Principal Rudy Reif gave the board a presentation on the work of the Wellness Committee and its areas of focus.

Finally, the board discussed the district goals — as outlined on a proposed plan, in part determined from board preferences discussed at the July board retreat.

Even with the previous discussion, it appears there remains disagreement over which goals should take priority, and even how many there should be.

The goals document lists five goals, two emerging goals and five more areas of focus.

The proposed goals: 1. Maintain and/or improve Student Achievement and Growth; 2. Student Wellness; 3. Technology plan; 4. International baccalaureate/Capstone study and 5. Human Resources.

The Emerging Goals: 1. The School Start Time Initiative; 2. Develop a strategic communications plan.

The Focuses:  1. Continue ongoing support of resources and commitment to our STEM Initiative; 2. Follow Standard Curriculum Cycle Review of our academic program; 3. Comprehensive review of our K-2 academic program; 4. Ten-year capital improvement plan; 5. Comprehensive plan – PDE required.

Board member Gregg Lindner questioned whether the 10-year plan should be one of the goals — as the financial planning for district is such a crucial topic. Member Michael Rock questioned whether the goals could be compressed into fewer main goals — as a number of them are interlocking already.

Superintendent John Sanville agreed to take those inputs and others expressed during the meeting to reformat the goals prior to next Monday’s formal board meeting.