THE ISSUE: Bonds have been issued to fund the city’s new library.THE IMPACT: The more than $13 million in bonds to fund construction of a new facility will fulfill the wish of voters who approved the measure. Construction is expected to begin later this year.
The new Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library is one step closer to checking out its first book.
Stephens Incorporated Public Finance Senior Vice President Jack Truemper gave a report to the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library Board on Tuesday night regarding bond sales for a new library structure.
“Today is a special day for the Pine Bluff Library because we closed our bond issue today,” Truemper said. “You have in your bank account $13,000,098 ready to be spent. Plus, you are probably going to get an additional $1,883, assuming there are not any unforeseen costs.”
The bond sales went through a rating process through Standard & Poor’s and earned an A-plus, he said.
“We’ve been working on this since 2014,” Truemper said. “It’s going to be a fabulous facility.”
The municipal bonds were sold at an interest rate of 3.27 percent, which Truemper called great. The city bonds have a stated maturity of the year 2047.
“Based on the projected pay-off from the coverage, which is the surplus tax collections, we expect the issue to be paid in full by 2032, which is about 15 years,” Truemper said. “That is the city. If the assessed values grow, it can pay off faster. If they are flat, it should pay off in about 15 years. If for some reason there is a decline, it might not pay off as fast.”
These developments come three months after the library board signed an agreement with Main Street Development LLC to purchase the 618 Main St. property, where Main Street Development LLC majority member Lloyd F. Lee rents space there for his certified accounting firm. Lee signed the contract dated Feb. 6, 2017, with Library Board President Tommy Brown for the sum of $385,000.
This deal comes after Pine Bluff voters approved a 3.0-mill tax increase to raise $14 million for construction of a new main library.
In other news, Tommy Brown discussed a Pine Bluff School District parking lot that is close to the future library location. Brown said he will be going to the Pine Bluff School Board meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16, to ask about acquiring the lot. Brown invited other library trustees to join him. Brown said Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Michael Robinson invited him to the meeting.
“We can present to them why we would like to acquire or have them donate this property,” Brown said. “If we can gain this property from the school, then we have about 100 feet of contiguous land. If we get this property, it gives us expanded options for expanded green spaces, expanded parking areas, which we are going to need.”
Library trustee Stephen Bronskill is also a Pine Bluff School Board member. He recused himself from discussions related to the parking lot and said he would do the same at the school board meeting.
In employee news, Library Director Laura Whitehead introduced Ricky Williams, a newly-hired director of information technology. Whitehead said she was happy to have hired Williams, because she had not had an information technology director for three months.
In finance news, bookkeeper Jeannie West said the library experienced negative financial realities as reflected by revenues versus expenditures in 2012, 2014 and 2015. She mentioned Michael Sawyer, the previous permanent library director from February 2012 until his firing by the library trustees in December 2015.
“The last seven years, we were in the hole three times,” West said. “The last year, the first year that we asked Mr. Sawyer to leave, we were up $145,000. That figure is going to be adjusted when we start our audit.”
West said the library used to experience surprise expenses such as a $5,000 lego table. She did not elaborate.
Whitehead was hired in January 2017.
“We are definitely on the positive track,” Whitehead said. “I do not foresee any more problems unless something really huge and unforeseen happens.”