By Brandon Martin
The Henry County Board of Supervisors heard a report from David Rose, a financial advisor from Davenport & Co, about potential cost savings of refinancing some school debt.
In his discussion about potential refinancing opportunities on two loans related to Meadow View Elementary School, Rose said “I had the good fortune of working on both of those financing and at the time, we were just elated over the interest rates that we received.
“They were fixed, and one was at basically 2.5 percent and one was at 2.4 percent. We are here today because it is possible that the interest rates have come down,” Rose said. “As a result, you’d simply be exchanging current interest rates for lower interest rates. We would not be extending any debt. We would not be adding any new debt. We simply do it to save some money.”
Currently, $17.3 million is outstanding on the loan.
“When we first approached staff, we indicated that the new rate might be below two percent,” Rose said. “If that’s the case, we are looking at some savings” of approximately $1.5 million on the high end. “That translates to about $100,000 a year.”
At present, the actual new interest rates are still unknown, according to Rose, who added that he would seek the board’s advice at a later meeting on the appropriate savings level.
“The way that the VPSA (Virginia Public School Authority) works is you’d be one of multiple local governments in a pool,” Rose said. “In that pool, you could tell VPSA ahead of time, if a million dollars is what you want and nothing less, then you indicate to them that if you cannot get that savings on the day of the sale, then you simply would not be part of the sale.”
If that happens, Rose said it is at no cost for either the county or the VPSA, but refinancing would free up collateral.
“Right now, that school is collateral on the loan. If indeed, the refinancing goes forward, that collateral on the loan is freed up,” Rose said. “It can be used for any other purposes. It becomes a full faith and credit of the county.”
The board will hold a March 23 public hearing on the issue.
In other matters, the board:
*Heard from Jim Roberts, of the Reed Creek District.
“I’m new to the county and I’m sharing my first impressions as a new resident,” Roberts said. “I hate to tell you that my initial impression of myself, as well as others who have visited me, is that Henry County strikes them as a dumping ground for trash.”
Roberts said abandoned automobiles, dilapidated homes and trash in yards are problems along U.S. 220.
While an ordinance is in place, Roberts said it lacks the enforcement to be effective.
“I’m suggesting that the ordinance could be strengthened by enabling, not the occupant, but the property owner to be cited and to be given a suitable fine, as well as an adjudication process,” Roberts said. “My thinking is perhaps community groups might be able to contribute volunteers to not only provide the citations but also to provide the research as to who is the owner of the property so they can be the ones who are properly assessed the citation.”
*Heard about health insurance for the school board and Board of Supervisors from Doug Stegall, of the Collinsville District.
“I have no problem with the rank-and-file like the teachers, educators and deputies getting this benefit. I think it is wonderful that we can give it to them. I think they need to pass a resolution and do away with the free health insurance for the Board of Supervisors and the school board for not showing any proof of any time worked,” Stegall said.
He added that he was informed members must work 25 hours per week to receive the insurance.
“They’ve never shown any proof of that,” he said, adding that bus drivers have been disqualified from receiving the insurance for that reason.
“They say it’s a violation of their rights that the public knows they are getting this free health insurance,” Stegall said. “At one time, I was told that on the Board of Supervisors and the school board that there were five people getting it. If they do away with that, that’ll save about $40,000 a year for the taxpayers.”
*Held a public hearing, and approved an additional appropriation of $4.5 million from the general fund, to install natural gas to Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre. The board approved a performance agreement with Southwestern Virginia Gas Company to complete the project. The matter will be taken up by the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) for final approval.
*Reappointed Barry Nelson to the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) for a term ending March 31, 2025; Reappointed Fred Spencer, Lynnwood Vaughn and Dee West to the Planning Commission, with terms ending March 31, 2025.
*Approved performance agreements with Laminate Technologies and Crown Holdings.
*Heard an update on the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. from Mark Heath, president and CEO.
*Heard an update on delinquent tax collection efforts by Treasurer Scott Grindstaff. As of Jan. 29, 87.56 percent of 2020 personal property taxes have been collected. For the same period, 91.07 percent of real estate taxes have been collected.
*Heard an update from Lisa Price-Hughes on general highway matters.