A year after floods devastated most of Central, its public schools have emerged in good financial shape.
A post-flood windfall from an increase in sales tax collections, particularly from car purchases, more than offset a significant fall in property taxes. The Central school district ended the 2016-17 school year with $1.2 million more in local sales and property taxes than it had originally projected.
Central Superintendent Michael Faulk said since the new 2017-18 school year started Thursday, enrollment increased slightly over last year and more students are enrolling each day. He said more children transferred out of Central this year compared to the past, but even more new students enrolled to take their place.
He said he expects that Central will still be over last year’s numbers when Oct. 1 arrives, one of the two official days the state counts the number of children enrolled in a district. That would mean a modest growth in state education funding.
“I see a slight increase,” Faulk said.
Central also is reaping another $527,000 in savings from the recent refinancing of property and sales tax bonds, savings which Faulk said he expects will all be passed along to taxpayers.
Despite strong financial reserves and a recent upgrade in its credit rating, the Central Sch…
Central, which has a history of saving money for its reserves, last year improved its credit rating to an AA- level. Armed with the better rating, and a good market, Central was able to lower the interest rate it’s paying on $10.6 million of previously issued bonds.
Property owners will see the benefits when they pay a lower millage on their 2018 property taxes in early 2019.
When it comes to the sales tax, Faulk said, he expects the board will use the savings to pay off those bonds earlier, allowing the sales tax to expire earlier.
Grant Schlueter, a bonding attorney with Foley & Judell in New Orleans, said the savings from the bond refinancings were even greater — at least $100,000 more — than his office had estimated. Refinancing the sales tax bonds, in particular, proved attractive to investors, he said.
Schlueter said many local governments don’t even even try refinancing.
“You guys have been very aggressive and pursued every refinancing opportunity,” he said.
The financial news pleased Central School Board members.
“Anytime you want to come back and save us another $500,000, you’re welcome back,” said Board President David Walker.
Central also has yet receive full reimbursement from FEMA for expenses incurred during the flood. Faulk said the reimbursement process is likely to drag on for two to three more years.