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State sells $685 million in bonds for projects

ATLANTA -- State officials have sold $685 million in general obligation bonds to fund new construction projects and repair existing facilities, a press release said.

"These bonds were sold at very low rates given current market conditions and that translates into savings for Georgians," Gov. Nathan Deal said in announcing the deal Thursday. "The state's AAA bond ratings enable us to invest in vital infrastructure around the state in a fiscally responsible manner and provide for more employment opportunities for our construction industry which was hit so hard by the recession."

The Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission, which is responsible for issuing the state's bonds, approved the bond sale at its meeting Thursday, the release said.

After receiving competitive bids Wednesday, the state secured rates of 3.33 percent for the 20-year tax-exempt bonds and 1.03 percent for five-year tax-exempt bonds, with a blended rate of 3.20 percent. The state also sold $163.22 million of five-year and 20-year taxable bonds at a blended rate of 3.85 percent and $94.35 million of 20-year taxable Qualified School Construction Bonds at a rate of 4.02 percent. The federal government reimburses the state for the interest paid on the Qualified School Construction Bonds, issued for K-12 school construction projects.

The majority of the funding, $249.355 million, will go to the Board of Regents for projects at colleges and universities throughout the state. Another $209.505 million goes to the State Board of Education to provide funding to local school systems for K-12 school facilities. Other agencies that will benefit from the bond proceeds include $38.235 million for Technical College System of Georgia projects, $24.25 million for water and sewer loans to local governments, $26.5 million for Department of Natural Resources projects at state parks. Projects totaling $137.11 million have been designated for several other agencies, including the Georgia Department of Public Safety, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, local library systems and other state agencies.

Rating firms Fitch and Standard & Poor's gave the state AAA ratings, the highest available, while Moody's gave Georgia a rating of Aaa.

"Once again earning the top bond ratings during the current economic climate illustrates Georgia's continued commitment to sound fiscal management while continuing to meet the needs of our citizens for increased educational and economic development opportunities throughout Georgia," Deal said.