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Victoria County takes on $6.5 million debt

By Melissa Crowe
March 31, 2014 at 5:01 p.m.
Updated March 30, 2014 at 10:31 p.m.


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Borrowing money costs money, and for Victoria County, taxpayers should gear up for a new multimillion-dollar debt.

Victoria County Commissioners approved Monday taking on $6.5 million in debt with certificate of obligation bonds to make major improvements and renovations to county-owned facilities.

Across the debt's 20-year life span, taxpayers will bear the cost of about $9.9 million, of which $3.4 million will go to interest.

Residents will not see a change in the total tax rate, said County Judge Don Pozzi.

The funds, which are expected to be in the county's bank account by the end of May, will be used to renovate the Hartman warehouse and the old fire house, demolish buildings at the airport and to make improvements on roads and drainage.

The move is about looking toward the future, said Commissioner Kevin Janak.

"When people look back and say this court was doing some smart thinking and took advantage of the low interest rates, they knew (we) had projects to get done and took care of them," Janak said.

It might not be as popular with everyone as county officials would like it to be, he said.

County Auditor Judy McAdams said this is the third time in the county's history to take out certificate of obligation bonds. Previously, these bonds funded the purchase of the Bridge Street Annex in 2001 for $5 million and radios in 2010 for $8.5 million.

County Treasurer Sean Kennedy said the total costs of this new debt are based on some assumptions, including the interest rate, which is estimated to be 4.25 percent.

Once the bonds are sold, the interest rate will be locked in for 20 years. For 20-year bonds, 4.25 percent is a good rate, he said.

"You have to compensate investors for going out 20 years with their money," Kennedy said.

The county's financial adviser, Bob Henderson, said the county could get a lower interest rating but said the trends show rates are rising.

This type of debt can be issued directly to vendors to pay for construction work, land and professional services, among other items, and can be sold, like bonds, for cash, in which case they must be approved by the attorney general, according to information from Texas Municipal League.

Voters have the option to petition for an election to decide whether the certificates of obligation should be issued. To get an election, 5 percent of qualified voters need to sign a petition, according to the league.

Commissioner Gary Burns proposed taking out $3 million in debt this year then revisiting the issue later to take on an additional amount. Anything else could come out of the general or reserve funds.

"It makes me uncomfortable that we're in such a big hurry," Burns said.

However, Commissioner Danny Garcia questioned whether $6.5 million was sufficient.

"If we're going to go out there for certificates of obligation, I think we should include everything that could possibly happen in those five years and leave our reserve alone," Garcia said.

The county has agreed to maintain a reserve fund of 30 percent, or about four months of operations, in case of an emergency such as a hurricane. The reserve also contributes to the county's bond ratings.

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