Understanding the Basics of Local Government Debt Service

Wytheville, Va. – The Wythe County Board of Supervisors have been evaluating how to fund future Debt Service Payments for potential projects and feel that we should share how the potential projects would affect the tax rates of property owners. There are three basic components of any Debt Service calculation:

Principal – Total amount borrowed
Term – Length of the loan (years)
Interest Rate – Rate of return for the lending institution

The county’s current financial condition, ability to repay loans, past performance, and current loan capacity all work together in order to place the locality in a highly-favorable position when being viewed by potential lenders.

By law, the county is restricted on its ability to borrow and cannot issue more than $10,000,000 per year of bank qualified – tax exempt bonds. These type bonds allow the county to borrow funds at the best rates available. Bonds above $10,000,000 are taxable and usually have a higher interest rate. We have provided a few examples below of how general obligation bond issuances affect the tax rates of Wythe County for the citizen’s reflection:

The current real estate property tax rate in Wythe County is $0.49 per 100 dollars of assessed value.
A $100,000 home owner will pay $490 in real estate tax in 2016.
Each penny of tax increase raises that payment by $10.00 per year.

Each million dollars borrowed under the bank qualified-tax exempt status by the County is projected to incur an annual Debt Service payment of approximately $66,000 per year if the loan is placed in the open market as a bank qualified/tax exempt offering. Each million dollars borrowed above $10,000,000 is a taxable bond and is not considered as favorably in the bond market which results in a higher interest rate which ultimately results in a higher debt service payment per year.

Example 1 – A bond of $10,000,000 is projected to result in an annual Debt Service Payment of approximately $666,000 and a tax increase of approximately 3 cents or an increase of 6.1% in the annual real estate tax to the homeowner if it the bond is issued as a bank qualified – tax exempt offering, based on current rates.

Example 2 – A Bond of $25,000,000 would result in an annual Debt Service Payment of approximately $1,709,000 since only a portion of the loan qualifies as bank qualified – tax exempt. This bond issuance would require a tax increase of approximately 7.7 cents which would be an increase of over 15% on the $100,000 home owner based on current rates.

Example 3 – A Bond of $37,000,000 would result in an annual Debt Service Payment of approximately $2,543,000 and require a tax increase of approximately 11.5 cents which would be an increase of over 23% on the $100,000 home owner. The homeowner’s annual tax bill would go from $490 to $605 per year.

We hope this information assists the tax payers of Wythe County to understand how a bond issuance affects the tax rate of Wythe County.

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Wytheville, Va. – In response to the Wythe County Sheriff’s request that the county’s Board of Supervisors provide additional funding to the sheriff’s office, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors presented the Sheriff with an agreement which detailed the additional local tax dollars of almost $600,000 that would be provided to the Sheriff’s office for the current fiscal year. The agreement placed into writing items the county would pay – offering a long-term solution to the county sheriff’s office’s funding requirements.

This action was taken following a request made by the Sheriff on May 24, 2016, in which he requested that additional local tax payer dollars be provided to his office in order to help offset financial woes that have arisen during his tenure as sheriff.

Recognizing the supreme importance of having uniformed school resource officers on duty everyday school is in session, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors voted to budget compensation for all positions on June 30, 2016 for School Year 2016 and 2017.

The Board of Supervisors’ actions were to ensure that the top priority in the sheriff’s budget was to employ three fulltime school resource officers and a DARE officer in the county’s public schools. The Board of Supervisors recognizes that the assignment of these officers outside of the school to other duties is at the sole discretion of the sheriff.

Section 2 of the Memorandum of Agreement presented to the Sheriff’s office explicitly states that the top funding priority is to be school resource officers.

Presently, the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office receives 80% of all revenues generated by fines generated by the local ordinance adopted by Wythe County Board of Supervisors in 1992. The revenues deposited in the Police Activity Fund were $1,065,696 which is $249,422 less than the previous year when the deposits were $1,315,188. In addition, to these funds the Sheriff’s office is provided all the revenue generated from other local ordinances. In Fiscal Year 2016, the revenues collected from these ordinances totaled more than $1,200,000 which were all dedicated to the Sheriff’s Department. These do not include the processing fee for inmates. In July 2016 the Sheriff raised the application fee for concealed weapons permit from $15 to $50 which is a 233% increase.

In May of this year, it was erroneously reported that the county’s board of supervisors were forcing the sheriff’s office to pay for its own janitorial supplies and maintenance services out of their portion of the police activity fund – this is 100% incorrect, as these items, among several other services rendered to the sheriff’s office are paid for out of the Board of Supervisors’ general fund.

At such a critical time in our nation’s history, the county board of supervisors wish to make it very clear that they appreciate and respect the many sacrifices the brave men and women of our local law enforcement agencies make each day – which is precisely why the Board authorized funding for the school resource officer positions and included in the prepared agreement that the school resource officers were the top priority for funding. The Board is disappointed that these critical positions may become the victim of political gamesmanship when the safety of our children is at stake.

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STATUS UPDATE: Wythe County School Renovations

WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Over the past decade, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors and School Board have enjoyed a close working relationship aimed at the mutual understanding that the gateway to future success will only be achieved through a strong and competitive school system. Together, the two governmental agencies have worked hand-in-hand in order to formulate workable plans to ensure the county’s education facilities are second to none.

Approximately twenty years ago, the two bodies assessed the facility needs of each school and created a schedule of school renovation, beginning with the facilities that stood in the greatest need. This assessment and cost have been updated periodically.

Thanks to this cooperation, thousands of county students began the 2016-17 school year in classrooms that are both aesthetically pleasing as well as highly functional.

To date, these renovations and additions have included the Max Meadows Elementary School, Fort Chiswell Middle School, Rural Retreat Elementary School, Jackson Elementary School, Rural Retreat High School, and most recently, Rural Retreat Middle School and Sheffey Elementary School.

These renovations have been extensive and included stripping large sections of the schools down to their outer shell in order to properly meet new standards — the final result being an almost unrecognizable school facility enjoying modern wiring, telecommunications, plumbing, flooring, walls, and roof.

Next on the schedule of schools to be modernized were the three schools located within the Town of Wytheville, Spiller Elementary, Scott Memorial and George Wythe High School; however, on February 18, 2016, Dr. Jeff Perry, the new superintendent of Wythe County Public Schools, presented the Board of Supervisors with revised options regarding existing plans for the three town schools.

Acknowledging that the cost to renovate all three of the schools would total to approximately $24 million, Superintendent Perry presented two other options to the county’s board of supervisors: 1.) Construct three entirely new schools at a price tag of $81 million or 2.) Construct a new combined Scott Memorial / George Wythe facility at a price of $50 million and either renovate Spiller for $8.5 million or build a new elementary school for $25 million, totaling to either $58.5 million or $75 million — all of these plans, however, would severely increase the anticipated costs of modernizing the schools in town and severely delay work on other schools in the county awaiting their turn to be renovated.

In an effort to fully understand the general public’s perspective, the county created an online poll in March of this year. The poll detailed the new proposals and the costs associated with deviating from the original School Board and Board of Supervisors’ plan.

Only one vote per residential address was permitted in order to safeguard the poll’s authenticity and after a month’s time, 813 votes were counted. Of this number, 620 individuals had voted against deviating from the original plan (76.3%) while only 193 were in favor of building a consolidated facility (23.7%).

On Tuesday, August 9, 2016, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors held a special work session and supervisors discussed the pros and cons of each of the proposals. Supervisors did not, however, “nix” any plans or decide upon any action, as no votes are allowed by law to be taken during a work session.

Last year, serving as the primary funding agency for the county’s school system, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors funded the county’s School Board at approximately +$15.7 million annually, nearly two-times the state’s mandated rate. As the funding agency of the school system, the county government has a vested interest in providing the greatest education in the best facilities possible to local residents — while at the same time doing so in a manner that is cost effective, while maintaining a tax structure that encourages economic growth and home ownership.

Modern facilities are just a single ingredient in what is required to reach these goals — of even greater significance are the teachers tasked with guiding our county’s youth and in order to retain the very best educators in our region, the county government must remain good stewards in determining school budgeting items.

In response to the School Board’s request, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors has appointed the Chair, School Board Liaison and County Administrator to meet with School Board members and School Superintendent to discuss school construction. The invitation for the meeting has been sent to the School Superintendent.

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Wytheville, Va. – Wednesday, August 10th marks the first day of the 2016-17 school year for children in Wythe County and the county’s board of supervisors is encouraging motorists to exercise caution during their morning and evening commutes.

County officials say they will be making roadside safety awareness a top priority in the opening days of the school year in an effort to curb startling statistics – studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that in the United States, approximately 4,735 pedestrians are killed in traffic crashes each year. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 2 hours.

Even more sobering is the fact that in 2013, one in every five children under the age of 14 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.

“The first few days of school are always an exciting time for families and educators; however, they are also the most dangerous, as over the summer, motorists have gotten out of the habit of watching for school busses and children waiting beside the road at bus stops,” said Tim Reeves, chairman of the Wythe County Board of Supervisors.

“As a Board, we want to use our platform to encourage all motorists to be on the lookout for children who may be waiting beside the road for the morning school bus – as well as remind parents to take the necessary time to teach their children the basic safety guidelines of pedestrian and school bus-stop safety.”

According to highway safety experts, parents should stress the following safety tips to their children while waiting at bus stops:
• Always walk to the bus stop. Never run.
• Always go to the bus stop about five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
• While at the bus stop, wait in a safe place away from the road. Do not run and play while waiting.
• Never speak to strangers at the bus stop and never get into the car with a stranger.
• Wait for the bus to arrive, watch for red flashing lights and the stop sign to be extended, and cross only when all traffic has stopped. Look left, right, and left again before crossing.

When exiting the bus, children should:
• When getting off the bus, children should walk (not run) three additional steps away from the door. Stay away from the bus wheels and watch out for moving cars!
• Once children are off the bus, they should go straight home so an adult will know where they are.
• If they leave something on the bus, they should never return to the bus to get it. The driver may not see them come back and they may begin moving the bus. (On average, 10 children are killed each year by being struck by the school bus itself.)
• If a child drops something near the bus, they should tell the bus driver before attempting to pick it up… If the driver does not hear them, they should step away from the bus and never go into a road to retrieve anything – no item is worth a child’s life.

School buses remain as the safest mode of transportation to and from school in the United States – approximately 450,000 public school buses travel approximately 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities each year.

Wythe County officials are hoping for another safe school year and are encouraging parents, motorists and staff to do their part in making sure children are protected while waiting for the morning school bus.

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