SUWANEE -- Officials with Gwinnett County Public Schools voted 3-0 Thursday to authorize the issuance and sale of $275 million in Education special purpose local option sales tax bonds to be paid back with sales tax proceeds.
In addition, the board voted to refinance $35.8 million in existing bonds.
According to the school district's bond underwriter, Jamie Wilson with Merchant Capital, the district's AAA bond rating is the best in the state. According to Moody's Investors Services, a AAA rating is "the highest quality and lowest credit risk" on the bond rating system scale.
Wilson said "Gwinnett County Schools is a name that (investors) want to own and have in their portfolios. AAA rating sets you apart."
Finance Director Rick Cost said it was a win-win.
"Both of the transactions, both issues could not be better news all around for the school district," Cost said.
He added that refinancing the bonds with recent interest rates will result in a savings of about $1.7 million overtime.
Local education advocate Craig Lownes said he supports the district's ability to borrow money, but he doesn't necessarily agree with doing it.
"They're doing what they said they would do, and it's perfectly legal," Lownes said. "I just disagree with borrowing money when you don't have to. I'd much rather see the district spend it up front."
Gwinnett County's registered voters approved an extension of the education SPLOST Nov. 8 by about 60 percent with a voter turnout of about 14 percent.
Education SPLOST IV is a measure that allows the system to collect a projected $876 million from retail sales to improve technology, build schools and make renovations during a five-year period.
For the past 15 years, Gwinnett County Public Schools has used the education SPLOST to construct 46 schools, helping the district keep up with enrollment growth.
The current one-cent sales tax for education expires on June 30. Education SPLOST IV will collect from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2017. Of the projected $876 million, about $17.1 million is earmarked for Buford City Schools through an intergovernmental agreement approved by both systems.
According to Sloan Roach, district spokesperson, GCPS recently received notice that the district has maintained its AAA rating, "another factor that allows the district to get the best rates possible."
Roach said GCPS is one of 16 school districts in the nation with a Aaa rating from both rating agencies including Standard and Poor's and Moody's Investors Services.