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D-304 eyes ways to reduce ballooning debt

Published: Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 10:25 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 6:43 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – As Geneva District 304 school officials look at ballooning debt payments, school board members discussed various options Monday to deal with it.

Among them is to use surplus beyond $15 million in the education fund to reduce the debt payments. Board president Mark Grosso said the board would decide what to do next month.

At issue are debt payments that will rise steadily from the more manageable $15 million to about $19 million in 2015 and about $25 million in 2019.

The district’s overall debt is nearly $310 million.

The district has been reducing its debt every year, board member Bill Wilson said.

To date, the district abated $8.2 million to lower its debt and is on target to abate $5.9 million this year to continue lowering its debt.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Donna Oberg said they are trying to keep the annual payments at $15 million

“Drawing out that debt an additional four years would be a cost to us,” Oberg said. “But by putting something aside we can use some of that money to restructure those bonds.”

Wilson said abatement is the least expensive way for the district to pay down its debt, coupled with setting aside money every year to pay down the principal.

Board member David Lamb said pushing the debt out into the future is “pushing it off to the next generation of taxpayers. I have a problem with that.” 

Board member Kelly Nowak said she has been trying to find a way to deal with the problem.

“The sad news there is no silver bullet,” Nowak said. “There is not one thing we can do, in and of itself, to solve our problem. The good news is, we have a bunch of tools … and we are employing those.”

Nowak compared it to a mortgage with a variable rate and then going to a fixed rate.

“Instead of watching that [mortgage payment] climb from $14 million to almost $25 million, we’re going to flatten that out,” Nowak said.

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