City schools' bonds get council OK

·3 min read

Jun. 14—THOMASVILLE — The Thomasville City Schools' plans for a new high school — and extensive work at its three elementary schools — has gotten a big boost.

Thomasville City Council members passed both a bond resolution and a bond placement agreement for the city schools to fund their massive project.

"We hope constituents don't get lost in the weeds is that we're building a brand new high school," city schools Superintendent Dr. Raymond Bryant Jr. told council members at a recent workshop. "We're excited what that means for our students."

The bond resolution calls for no more than $42 million in general obligation debt. The school system will not have more than $3 million in payments each year, and the total payments will be approximately $38.77 million over the life of the bonds.

Voters approved an extension of the education special purpose local option sales tax, with the city schools' proceeds going toward bond payments. The ESPLOST is split between the city and county schools, and the city schools' split, with roughly 31.7% of the student population is around $3.14 million each year.

"We want to be fiscally prudent now and in the long term," Dr. Bryant added. "We're committed to this long after I'm superintendent —we don't want to encumber the next leadership to where they cannot pay this debt down."

City schools chief financial officer Kimberly NeSmith told council members they are being very cautious and making sure they can meet their debt obligations, with the last payment scheduled for 2041.

The new construction planned for the MacIntyre Park Middle School side of Jackson Street is approximately 95,000 square feet. Originally, the school system looked at 120,000 square feet.

MPMS will be the front of the new 6-12 campus, Dr. Bryant said, with a new three-story building.

"The other expectation is that all three elementary schools receive renovations," he said. "We're trying to do those as a complete project. I want to make sure we touch all five campuses."

Council member Todd Mobley, a former Thomasville High School principal, said the county schools are building new facilities as well and that could affect the student population split.

"When you build those fancy facilities," he said, "guess where the kids are going to go?"

Both systems have had about the same enrollment over the last couple of ESPLOSTs, NeSmith said.

"You hope when you build new construction and you continue to perform well academically and athletically," she said, "then you're hoping to attract students and see that enrollment increase."

Voters likely will have to approve extensions of the ESPLOST when those come up for vote in the future in order for the city schools to meet their payments. The city schools also will get some state funding, earned over different years. It must submit five-year facilities plans in order to receive that funding.

City attorney Tim Sanders said it is a theoretical possibility the city could have to levy ad valorem taxes to service the debt and the city schools could direct some of their general fund proceeds to make up a shortfall.

A delivery date of June 7 was set for the bonds.