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posted: 2/11/2013 10:25 PM

Geneva again puts education fund excess toward debt

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The Geneva school board is continuing to use excess money in the district's education fund to repay money it borrowed in the mid-2000s to improve and build schools.

The board Monday transferred $4.99 million to the debt service fund. The district will use $298,136 of that this year for debt payment, and plans to use $3.23 million in fiscal year 2013-14 and $1.46 million the year after.

The goal is "trying to keep taxes (levied to repay debt) level" the next several years, said Donna Oberg, the assistant superintendent for business operations. "Otherwise, then we will have a big jump."

Oberg hopes that in the next five to six years, the housing market will recover bringing new properties on to the tax rolls, to share some of those payments. "Hopefully it will meet in the middle and kind of level it out."

The last two years, the board has decided that anything over $15 million in the education fund June 30 each year be used for debt.

The 2013-14 and 2014-15 abatements, which the board also approved Monday, may change next year. More money could be added when the district knows how much, if any, excess it has in the education fund as of June 30, 2013.

The abatements will be used to pay on debt voters approved in 2004. Voters authorized borrowing $41.1 million, some of which was used to build Geneva North Middle School.

Even with the abatement, the amount the district is asking from taxpayers for debt payment will increase over last year's levy, and will increase by $500,000 a year over at least the next two years. The district owes a payment of $14.87 million this fiscal year for it. By fiscal year 2018-19, the payment due rises to $24.3 million.

In 2007, voters approved borrowing another $79.9 million for buildings, including constructing two new elementary schools.

As of August 2012, the district owed a total of $305.99 million in principal and interest. If the district never borrows another cent, nor refinances any of it, it will pay off its debt in fiscal year 2026-27, according to the report from bond-financing consultant William Blair and Co.

The state has not paid a $17.1 million it promised the district for the construction of Geneva North Middle School.

In the past, critics have said the district carries too much money in reserve and should use more of it to repay debt. But no members of the public spoke about the matter.

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