Smithfield Herald

County to issue, refinance debt

Johnston County will refinance up to $64 million in debt and borrow $18 million more for school-building projects in a bond sale scheduled for March 31.

The actual amount refinanced will depend on how low interest rates are when it comes time to sell. But the county expects to refinance at least $28 million in outstanding bonds, said Martha Lasater, Johnston’s debt and grant management analyst.

If that conservative scenario plays out, the county expects to save about $2.5 million in the restructuring, Lasater said. If rates take a dive and the county decides to refinance the full $64 million, the amount saved could approach $4 million.

That money will flow into the general fund, with the bulk of the savings realized in fiscal years 2026-28, said Finance Director Chad McLamb. By structuring savings that way, McLamb said, future Johnston commissioners will have more flexibility to borrow money to fund capital projects as the county grows.

“We’re trying to protect future boards from having to make difficult decisions going forward with how much money can be borrowed,” McLamb said.

In the last decade or so, the finance department has saved the county about $15 million by refinancing debt at lower interest rates, McLamb said.

The county will also issue $18 million in new debt, part of $57 million in borrowing voters approved in November 2013 for Johnston County schools. That same year, voters also agreed to borrow $7 million for Johnston Community College.

The upcoming sale is round two, and Johnston schools spokeswoman Tracey Peedin Jones said the money will fulfill several capital needs:

▪  Continued construction of North Johnston Middle School in Micro.

▪  Land for a new middle school in the Cleveland community.

▪  Construction of a field house at West Johnston High School.

▪  Improvements to technology infrastructure, including new servers.

▪  Heating and cooling upgrades.

Johnston borrowed $19 million in the first round late last year, and McLamb said $500,000 of that went to JCC so it could plan how to spend the larger portion of its money. The remaining $18.5 million went to the public schools.

The final and largest round of borrowing is scheduled about a year from now, McLamb said. It will provide $6.5 million for JCC and $20.5 million for the school system.

Hamlin: 919-836-5768

  Comments