Fairmont Area saving $131K: School board refinances bonds, accepts $9K donation

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area Schools, and ultimately the Fairmont taxpayers, will see a savings of about $30,000 a year for the next five years, following a refunding of $2.69 million in school building bonds.

“We had a wonderful (bond) sale today,” Patty Heminover of Springsted Inc., the district’s financial advisor, told the Fairmont School Board at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Five bidders vied for the bonds, which were awarded to Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. at a rate of 1.24 percent. The move will save about $131,000 over a five-year period, with the savings going toward debt service, not the general fund.

This was the second time the district has refinanced the bonds, which were originally financed in 1999 at more than 6 percent. They were refinanced in 2005 at more than 3 percent.

Heminover credits the successful sale to Fairmont school’s A1 rating, which she called “a very strong rating for a school district.”

The school board also accepted seven donations Tuesday, with the largest being a check for $9,015.58 from WFS.

JoAnn Gumto, marketing director at WFS, presented the check to Amber Seibert, ag instructor at Fairmont High School. The funds came from harvesting and selling corn and soybeans that WFS planted on a school district-owned plot of land. WFS also allowed FHS ag students to conduct experiments on the test plot.

Other donations included: $1,250 from 3M to purchase graphing calculators at Fairmont Junior/Senior High School; $250 from 3M to purchase items for the lending library at the Fairmont Early Childhood and Family Education Program; $500 from CHS to the Cardinal Fund; $198 from the Target Corp. for the student activities account at Fairmont Elementary; 125 Northern Lights books from the Worthington School District and 30 Northern Lights books from the Albert Lea School District for the sixth-grade social studies class.

After reading the list of gifts, the unusually high number of donations prompted board member Dan Brookens to comment: “I could do that all day.”

Board members received a copy of the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey, which is an overview of responses from students in grades 5, 8, 9 and 11 concerning social and academic issues.

“There’s some really good news (in the survey), and some issues that will perk you up a bit,” Superintendent Joe Brown told the board. He said copies would be distributed to teachers, advisors, school nurses and others in the district. Anyone who would like a copy of the survey should contact the district office.

In other business, the board:

o Heard a report on the WeDay Minnesota conference at the Excel Energy Center in October from advisor Chris Engelby and several enthusiastic FHS students. Fifty students and four chaperones attended the conference, the first such gathering in the state, and heard inspirational speakers such as former First Lady Barbara Bush and Martin Luther King III. The event encouraged global and local service projects. The Fairmont group selected building a school in Ghana for the global project and will have a service project locally in May.

o Approved installation of a guard railing system on the roof of the junior/senior high school to comply with OSHA regulations. Board president Diane Gerhardt noted that the cost of the rail – $56,000 – probably would be less than an OSHA fine. The funds already are in the health and safety fund so it will not be any added burden on the taxpayers, she added.

o Increased the contract for Beth Switras, school nurse, from .8 to 1.0, or full-time.

o Formally withdrew from the South Central Conference for athletics at the end of the end of the 2013-14 school term and authorized membership in the newly formed Big South Conference at the start of the 2014-15 school term.

o Cancelled the regularly scheduled board meetings on Dec. 10 and Dec. 24 and set a meeting and truth-in-taxation hearing for Dec. 17.