Abilene council approves big bond issuance

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – The City of Abilene is prepared to issue more than $30 million in bonds, approved by the Council, but some of it also approved by voters in 2015.

This is the end of the 2015 bond elections, as part of the issuance marks the last bonds to be issued after the 2015 elections. So far, those bonds have paid for projects such as splash pads, Adventure Cove, and assorted bits of road work. This final piece of that puzzle carries a price tag of a little more than $8 million.

That figure is broken into two parts. $1.7 million is dedicated to various improvements at the Abilene Regional Airport. The remaining $6.5 million will go to street work. The primary targets are Butternut, N 6th, S Willis, and T&P Lane. Although these streets are specifically called out, the scope of work could be greater than just these four.

In his presentation before the Council, Director of Finance Mike Rains explained, “These aren’t part of the bond ordinance. It’s just, when we did the committee initially, this was part of that group.”

Looking for clarification, Councilman Shane Price asked, “So if these come in under budget, then we can use that money for other streets?” Rains confirmed that is the case.

An earlier item on the agenda, unrelated to the issuance of debt, actually illustrates how that might work. The now-approved reconstruction of Sayles Boulevard is funded by a previous bond that was approved by voters in 2015. Other street projects came in under budget, meaning that the money earmarked for street work could be diverted into a different street project.

Moving back to new bonds, the next item on the agenda was another sale of bonds, although this larger dollar figure was a brand new one. The issuance of $27 million dollars of general obligation bonds will go to fund a number of projects around the city.

$10 million will pay for energy projects recommended by Schneider Electric. The savings that come out of these efficiency projects are meant to pay for that portion of the debt.

$15 million will be sent to the water department, funding the first year of their five-year capital improvement program. That amount will be paid for by surplus money in the water utility fund.

The last portion of the second bond issuance is a relatively small $2.5 million, which will pay for non-public safety radios and their infrastructure.

There was a third and final ordinance relating to bonds on the agenda. This one is a refinancing. Bonds issued in 2013 and 2014 were reissued at a lower interest rate. If the council chose to do nothing, the city would pay an extra $7 million. As it is now, they stand to save some money.

City Manager Robert Hanna explained that the savings will not be $7 million, but they will still be substantial: “The net present value of savings, which is just a way to calculate the value of money in the future: it’s going to be less than it is today because of inflationary factors and other things, it’s still $5.1 million. That’s ten cents on the tax rate. This is real money we’re saving for the taxpayer.”

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