NEW IBERIA — The Iberia Parish school system’s finances are now considered on par with Lafayette and DeSoto parishes thanks to a bond rating increase, district officials said Wednesday.
School Board bond attorney Grant Schlueter said the board’s Standard & Poor general obligation debt rating has risen to AA- from A+. He said that not many government agencies attain a AA rating, and just a few school systems in Louisiana have reached it.
The highest rating an organization can receive is AAA.
Schlueter said the rating could mean large savings to the school system.
The district now should be able to negotiate lower interest rates on loans, he said, and even a quarter of a percent in reduction in an interest rate on a loan could save the taxpayers millions of dollars over the length of the term, depending on the amount borrowed.
“It certainly pays dividends to taxpayers,” Schlueter said.
Finance Director Carl LeBlanc said the rating increase is something the district has been working on for years. LeBlanc added that the rating is not just a reflection on the School Board’s financial health, but the economic well-being of the local economy.
In a summary report the Standard & Poor issued Sept. 14, the school system’s consistent budget surpluses, moderate amount of debt, strong sales tax revenue and growing tax base were cited as reasons for the rating increase.
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
SCHOOLS UP FOR SALE: The School Board voted unanimously to declare the now-vacant Live Oak Elementary and Johnston Street Elementary schools as surplus property.
Superintendent Dale Henderson said that declaration will allow the district to sell the schools.
The properties are being appraised, Henderson said, but there are people interested in buying them. The next step is to advertise the sale of the property before bids can be taken, he said.
Johnston Street Elementary had 300 students before it closed last year, Henderson said, and Live Oak Elementary had 150 students when it closed a few months ago.
SCHOOLS VANDALIZED: School Board member Arthur Alexander said he was upset to learn that recently closed Jeanerette Middle School had been broken into and vandalized.
District Maintenance Supervisor Harry Lopez said they discovered Monday that four of five air conditioning units at had been torn open and stripped of copper. He said Grand Marais Elementary also has been broken into recently.
The frequency at which the vandalisms take place is why they try to remove as much valuable equipment from the schools as possible after they are abandoned, Lopez said.
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