County focuses on cash control

Mar. 28, 2013 @ 01:42 PM

With $90 million in reserve cash flow, county officials may have enough money to pay for school improvement projects for the remainder of the year without borrowing more money, according to the latest projections.
If so, the county could save as much as $10 million in debt service payments next year, according to county budget committee discussions Wednesday. The savings could grow to $14 million if funds last until June 2014, according to projections.
Last month, the committee started on a path to find a way to postpone issuing $130 million in construction bonds for the county school district and Guilford Technical Community College. Finance Director Michael Halford offered a schedule of smaller bond issues through 2018 to cut the repayment bill.
“If the debt payment goes up $14 million, we may have no choice but to raise the property tax,” Republican Commissioner Jeff Phillips, committee chairman, told Guilford County Board of Education members. “We have to be sensitive to the timing going forward. We have to live within our means.”
Angie Henry, school district chief financial officer, said the district has committed projects totaling $90 million and will need the money to cover bills in the coming months.
Commissioners and school board members agreed they will watch project cash flow closely.  Phillips said commissioners could delay some projects to avoid a tax rate increase.
“We need to work out a schedule we all can work with,” said Board of Education Chairman Alan Duncan.
As the school district’s construction program winds down, the county may be able to save money if the school district uses none or just some of the $74 million left over from the canceled high school once planned for the northwestern section of the county. 
Several parent groups, including parents at High Point Central High School, have lobbied the school board for renovations financed from the $74 million.
“We are still working on priorities,” Duncan said. “We will go to the public with our ideas. We need to hear from the people.”
“If we excluded that school, the cash flow is $46 million for the 2014 calendar year,” said Reid Baker, county finance director.
“We may need to sell more bonds than $46 million,” Duncan said.
Most of the county’s debt comes from $457 million for school construction, $79.5 million for Guilford Tech projects and $115 million for the downtown Greensboro Detention Center. Voters approved those projects in 2008.


Outstanding:  Guilford County’s outstanding debt as of June 30 totals $901 million. Debt payments account for about 16 percent of the county budget.

Deadline: The county must issue the remainder of $270 million in authorized bonds by 2018. Guilford County has a AAA bond rating.