The Bethel School District has taken advantage of low bond interest rates to save taxpayers money. A recent refinancing authorized by the Board of Directors will result in savings of $5,373,353 for taxpayers over the next seven years.
“This was a great opportunity to demonstrate good fiscal stewardship and save our taxpayers a significant amount of money,” said Superintendent Tom Seigel. He emphasized that the savings will go directly to taxpayers through lower future tax collections.
“This is money that will now stay in our community and local economy, rather than go to pay interest on outstanding bonds.
The savings will also help the district promote future tax rate stability as it sells the remaining bonds approved by voters in 2019,” said Seigel.
The district garnered a rate of 1.43% on the new bonds. This compares to 4.00% on the bonds being refinanced.
Although there has been substantial volatility in the bond market due to Covid 19, the interest rates on these types of bonds reached near historic lows according to Billy Wessell, the district’s Chief Financial Officer.
“We have been monitoring the market closely over the past several months to identify an opportunity to refinance these bonds; we are pleased to be able to provide this savings to the district taxpayers” said Wessell.
As part of the bond issuance, the district received affirmation of their bond credit rating of “Aa2” from Moody’s Investors Service. In their recent rating report, Moody’s noted the district’s “ . . . strong management practices and prior success in managing fund balance”.
This strong bond rating benefits the district and taxpayers through lower borrowing costs, Wessell said.
Our first look at the new Bethel High School
The district is also making huge strides in the planning of the new Bethel High School.
At 250,000 square feet, the new BHS will be the largest school ever built in Bethel. When it opens, it will be ready for 1,800 students in classrooms, with room in portables for at least 200 more.
At a recent School Board meeting, the architects charged with designing the building unveiled their first exterior and interior renderings of what the state-of-the art school will look like.
Among the many impressive aspects of the school are a gym that will seat 2,000 students and a common area that will allow 700 students to comfortably eat lunch at the same time. There will also be room for Pierce College to offer their Running Start Program to BHS students, pending legislative funding.
The district will apply for building permits this year and the project will go to bid in April of next year. The two-year construction schedule will allow for the school to open for students in the fall of 2023.
In order to ease traffic congestion in the area, school buses will enter the site from 70th Avenue East, while students, staff and visitors will enter from 224th Street East.
The BHS project is currently on schedule and on budget.