January 17, 2021

Finances are in favor of the county for $3.6M bond

Jasper County’s municipal advisor highlights the positives of the deal

Jon Burmeister, managing director of Public Financial Management and municipal advisor for Jasper County, says there are “a lot of positives” to take away from the proposed $3.6 million bond referendum to construct a county administration building, which will be put to a vote in less than two months.

“Right now, I think the county’s in the driver’s seat,” Burmeister said.

Currently, the county’s bond rating of “Aa2” is considered a plus and provides “very low interest rates.” Burmeister said it’s only two notches below Aaa, which is the best rating possible. That strong bond rating, he added, is a result of the county’s budgeting and maintaining its general fund balance.

Fiscal year 2022 valuations in Jasper County increased by 3.23%. Based on the county’s existing debt and the $3.6 million bond proposal, the county’s is able to structure it in a way that tax rates will be “stable or slightly lower,” Burmeister said. Low debt burden is also in the county’s favor.

“You probably have one of the lowest debt burdens of any issuer in the state of Iowa. And the debt that you do have is coming off very, very quickly,” Burmeister said, noting a few series bonds will be paid off fully in 2022 and 2023. Another 2016 is expected to be paid off in 2027 by tax increment revenue bond.

Since the tax rates are expected to be stable or slightly lower, Burmeister said there will be relatively no tax impact to this project — or, at least, none that he can foresee. These sentiments echo what Jasper County Supervisors Chairman Doug Cupples told Newton News last week about the project.

“So key takeaways: county wants to borrow $3.6 million, lower the levy and … all their debt will be paid off in six years — and we get a new building,” Cupples said of the space formerly occupied by NewCare Health Services. “A brand new, really efficient, well-built, beautiful building. And it’s going to be a one-stop shop.”

Timing of the project is key, too. Burmeister said interest rates are at historical lows, making the prospect of bowering bond money all the more attractive.

Still, the bond referendum is ultimately up to the taxpayers. A 60% majority in favor of the proposal is all the county needs. If the bond is approved, Burmeister said the county may be able to pay off existing bonds and refund them for lower interest rates.

“So there’s just a lot of positives here proceeding forward with this,” Burmeister said.

Last week, BBS Architects Engineers provided the Jasper County Board of Supervisors with designs of what the new county administration building might look like. The office space would hold roughly a dozen or so departments, many of which would be transferred from the deteriorating county annex building.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com