Wednesday, September 19, 2012
sponsored by

County to seek $1 million in bonds to cover murder trials

Send a link to a friend

[September 19, 2012]  The Logan County Board, after a long process of weighing options, will soon post a notice of intent concerning bonded indebtedness.

The budget for the 2013 fiscal year will already be tight, but the added expense of major criminal court cases in the upcoming year would prove too extensive to support without significant impact to core jobs, services and support for valued community agencies.

As the board weighed whether to sweep funds to all levied agencies -- such as the health department, emergency management agency, Oasis and others -- as well as steeper cuts to all county department budgets, against borrowing, borrowing won favor.

With consent of the Logan County state's attorney's office, finance chair Chuck Ruben turned to First Midstate to ask about bonds to cover the costs.

This month, David Pistorius, a representative of First Midstate, met with the finance committee to explain the options and process of taking out bonds and was then asked to present to the full board on Sept. 13.

Pistorius said the board had two options. One option was a general obligation bond. These bonds have a tax levy, and the board would have to go to a referendum in order to issue this type of bond.

However, due to the need to pass a budget in October with the funds in it and with the election not until November, the board does not have the time for this type of bond.

Instead, the county may use alternate revenue bonds. These bonds have no tax levy, but the board would have to pledge current sources of revenue to pay the money back. As part of a feasibility report, the board would also have to prove they have an extra 25 percent coverage beyond the borrowed value. The extra 25 percent would not have to be paid; just prove that it is there. The authority of the bonds would be good for three years.

There are three steps involved with alternate revenue bonds. The first step is to adopt an ordinance of intent. The ordinance has to circulate in a newspaper, followed by a 30-day petition period. If 7.5 percent of registered voters sign a petition, the process can be stopped until the next referendum.

The second step is to conduct a public hearing. A notice has to be in circulation at least a week before the hearing. This will provide a chance for the public to learn more about the bonds.

The final step is to formally adopt a bond ordinance. Bonds are sold a week to 10 days before the ordinance is adopted. Funds are received in full around two weeks after adoption. Bonds are typically sold locally to banks and similar institutions first.

Pistorius also provided an estimate for an interest rate of around 5.5 percent for a 20-year issue. Should the revenue stream used to pay for the bonds run out, then taxes would have to be used as a backup means of paying off the bonds.

The county board wants to see the $600,000 the bonds would bring locked into the new budget; otherwise, the county has to find the money elsewhere in the budget, which would not be good for the county's already strained finances.

[to top of second column]

"It's a one-year problem, but it's really ugly for everybody in that one year," said Ruben.

"The next cut would be jobs," added Kevin Bateman.

In 10 years the bonds may become callable. Should the county have the capability, it then could pay off the bonds in greater amounts to save on interest.

Pat O'Neill asked how the board could justify such an expense to the citizens of Logan County to pay for one trial.

Ruben reiterated that the board was not talking about one trial, but rather the major criminal cases line item in the budget.

The exact costs of the particular trials that are scheduled to begin in the next year are not known. Three figures were considered for borrowing: $1.2 million, $1 million and $600,000.

Ruben made a motion for an ordinance of intent to sell bonds in the amount of $1 million. The motion was seconded by Terry Carlton, and it passed.

Ruben explained that while they are publishing a notice for $1 million, the county may find later that they do not need the full amount. The budget for next year is written under the assumption that $600,000 will be used for major criminal cases, with a $400,000 contingency fund, as it cannot be predicted whether or not expensive new cases may come up.

The board was also informed that previous bonds taken to pay for the Sysco building in 2005 may become callable in 2015. It may be possible to use money left over, if any, from the contingency fund created by the new bonds to pay off the older Sysco bonds. A future board could also use the contingency for other purposes.

Carlton clarified about the use of the money to be placed in a line item. "The courts can only draw from that fund (major criminal cases) for cases we have agreed upon. They can't just draw from that for anything," he said.

Chuck Ruben made a motion to approve the notice of intent to issue bonds in the amount of $1 million. The motion also included the right to petition, should members of the public wish to do so. The motion was seconded by Terry Carlton.

A roll call vote was taken with full board present. The result was 11 votes in favor, and one board member, Pat O'Neill, voting against. As a result, the notice of intent was approved by the county board.


< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching and Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law and Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health and Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor