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Woodland School Bond Buoys Officials

The Town of Milford successfully sold $28 million worth of bonds on April 20 to pay off its share of constructing the new Woodland Elementary School, with the Board of Selectmen voting to make the sale official and sign the required paperwork on April 25. Annual payment and interest costs came in at $500,000 less than town officials originally budgeted for in the coming Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

With the town's Aa2 bond rating, interest rates will vary from 2 percent to 5 percent during the 20-year pay-back period, meaning a "blended rate" of 3.1 percent each year, Finance Director Zachary Taylor explained. "It's been a long time in the making," he told selectmen. "It's favorable. It looks great. We should all be proud of ourselves."

Town Treasurer Christopher Pilla explained that nine financial institutions bid on the bonds, with Fidelity Capital Markets selected. That company is paying the town a $1,698,774 premium for the bonds, which means – after bond issuance costs of $117,350, – the town is actually receiving $29,581,424, he said.

In its credit opinion on the bond issuance, Moody's Investors Service re-affirmed the Aa2 rating on this new debt and cited the town's "sizeable tax base, stable financial position with health [cash] reserves and manageable debt and pension liability," Pilla told selectmen.

With the town's share of the Woodland cost – after state reimbursements –estimated to be $31 million, less than $1.5 million will be needed from the town's Stabilization Fund to pay off the debt, according to Taylor. The annual payments for the bonds will be within the town's annual operating budgets, he explained. He termed the costs "very manageable going forward."

Both Selectman Brian Murray and Chairman William Buckley lauded not just Taylor and Pilla, but all department heads, the Finance Committee, other officials involved in the town's financial management and Town Meeting Members for the successful bond issuance. Murray termed the Moody's opinion as "fairly significant to read" and noted it pointed to more than six consecutive years of surpluses in the town's budgets. "This whole credit opinion is just so favorable," he said. The town's conservative financial management has paid off, Murray added.

He asked Taylor to prepare a new debt service schedule showing where the actual Woodland bond numbers fit in, since past schedules contained just estimates. Taylor said that would be forthcoming in the near future.

"It speaks for itself. We have ample reserves. We have been planning properly for this," Taylor said, referring to the Moody's opinion. "We may not need to pull off Stabilization as it was originally intended," he said, referring to past discussions on taking money out of the long-term savings account each year to pay for the bonds. He added, "We're in excellent shape."

"I can't imagine a more sound financial opinion for a municipality than what I read here from Moody's," Murray said. "It's personally gratifying for me to have our financial professionals and a third party talk so favorable where we are," Buckley said. "Having third parties review and affirm our direction and budgeting process is really exciting to me," he continued. "They don't give away these ratings."

Buckley concluded the discussion by saying, "For a community to be in this position and to be able to get these bond ratings and not ever have to have had an override or a debt exclusion is significant."


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