BCSD finalizes issuance of $98 million in bonds
The Berkeley County School District (BCSD) has completed the scheduled issuance of $98 million in general obligation bonds, which will be used for various capital projects, including the construction of new schools, according to a press release issued by the district last week. The bonds are part of the $198 million referendum approved by the voters of Berkeley County in 2012. The proceeds will be used to complete Philip Simmons High School, construct Bowen’s Corner Elementary and Foxbank Elementary Schools, and renovate the Berkeley Education Center.
In recent months, following the termination of BCSD Chief Financial Officer Brantley Thomas for embezzlement of school district funds, the Berkeley County School Board assembled a team of employees, led by Interim Superintendent Deon Jackson, as well as legal and financial professionals, to guide it through the process of issuing the voter-approved bonds.
“After months of work, the district was able to maintain its high bond ratings from both Moody’s Investors Service (Aa2) and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC (AA) because the team demonstrated its commitment to restore financial stability to the school district,” stated School Board Chairwoman Sally Wofford. “The actions we have taken include replenishing the depleted reserve fund, improving the on-going continuing disclosures to bondholders, ensuring that proceeds of past borrowings are being appropriately monitored and spent, and fully assisting in state and federal investigations.”
“The district also proactively engaged forensic auditors and ordered a full financial investigation of the district by its legal team,” Wofford continued. “This board has strongly asserted its commitment to be good stewards of public funds in the face of difficult challenges and practices it inherited. Fighting to keep a strong bond rating was paramount, which we succeeded in doing. However, unfortunately, based on inappropriate expenditures by the former Chief Financial Officer, a significant portion of the bonds had to be issued as taxable.”
Of the $98 million bond sale, $30.8 million issued as taxable and $67.2 million issued as non-taxable.
According to Wofford, the district was faced with the decision to issue taxable bonds when it was discovered during the financial investigation conducted by its legal counsel that general fund reserves were used for capital projects without the required accompanying documentation by school officials to show that bond proceeds would be reimbursed to the general fund.
“Although this board cannot change poor past decisions, we are committed to being transparent to the public and moving forward appropriately with strong financial practices,” added Wofford.
For a comprehensive listing of current Berkeley County School District capital projects- including updates- visit http://www.bcsdschools.net/Page/24145.
District representatives have stated that Thomas confessed to embezzling money from the district, but he has not yet been charged and is reportedly cooperating with authorities in the investigation.