Bethel School District Bond Refinancing Saves Taxpayers Over $5.3 Million
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.
Finance Audit Update
At a School Board Study Session in April, representatives from the Office of the Washington State Auditor presented their findings to the Board for our most recent financial audit. During the meeting they thanked our district for our "commitment to fiscal accountability and accurate financial reporting." They also acknowledged several members of our Business Office for their outstanding work during the annual audit.
This audit covered the period of September 1, 2018 through Aug 31, 2019. "As usual, your district has a great process to make sure you're reporting everything correctly the first time," the auditors said during the meeting.
Bethel is dedicated to making sure we are efficient and effective when it comes to our finances. The budgeting process is now underway for the 2020/21 school year.
Budget balanced, books closed
Bethel closes the books on the 2018/2019 school year
Bethel’s Business Office just finished closing the books on the 2018/19 school year.
Growth in the district has been a frequent topic of discussion, especially since we grew 1,000 students in 2015 — a number that doesn’t even include all students.
The graph above, which was part of Chief Financial Officer Billy Wessell’s year-end presentation to the school board, shows growth in the district when it comes to Full Time Enrollment (FTE). FTE doesn’t count students we serve aged 0–3 in our early learning programs, nor does it count any special programs not counted for funding. When you include those students, the number is called “headcount.”
From October 2018 to October 2019 our district grew 473 students by headcount.
During his presentation, Wessell made note of a few items, including the first round of bond sales reflected in the Capital Projects Fund. That money will go directly to funding the bond projects approved by voters this February.
No frills: Bethel budget puts money in the classroom
Bethel’s 2019/20 budget continues to demonstrate our commitment to educational excellence for all students.
A total of 96% (74.1% directly and 21.9% indirectly) of our annual budget supports our classrooms.
The district’s General Fund Budget of $316.8 million covers the school district’s annual operating costs. It provides support to approximately 20,000 students, which are served by more than 2,200 staff.
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75 new full-time positions for Bethel
Bethel’s 2019/20 budget includes more funding for more staff — specifically, 67.4 certificated Full Time Equivalency (FTE) positions and 7.745 classified FTE positions. If you break those numbers down, you’ll find 53.8 FTE Basic Education Teachers, 6.6 FTE Special Education Teachers, and 2.0 FTE Maintenance Personnel, among others.
The growing staff in Bethel reflects the growing population in our community. Bethel was already the 8th largest public employer in Pierce County, with more people on staff than the Post Office. With these new additions, the district could climb even closer to the top of that list.
According to demographers, there’s no end in sight for growth in our area. Forecasters are predicting there will be 400 new housing units per year in the district for the next 20 years. That means the number of staff will continue to grow alongside the incoming number of new students.
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