Jacksonville/North Pulaski board approves bond sale, 2024 eclipse day off

Jacksonville-area schools in works

The 2017 solar eclipse's totality was seen over Cobden in southern Illinois..(Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler) ..For adgsuneclipse2023
The 2017 solar eclipse's totality was seen over Cobden in southern Illinois..(Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler) ..For adgsuneclipse2023

The School Board for the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District on Monday approved the sale of $15,035,000 in construction bonds at an interest rate of 4.619992%.

The board approved the bond issue at a meeting in which it also agreed to tweak the school year calendar to accommodate an April 8, 2024, total eclipse of the sun.

The board voted in support of closing campuses to students on April 8 in anticipation of traffic and other disruptions expected as the result of an influx of visitors to central Arkansas to see the eclipse.

The district that had planned to close campuses on March 15, 2024 -- the Friday before the week of spring break vacation -- now intends for March 15 to be a regular school day for students and staff.

The bond issue will generate money for the ongoing construction of replacement campuses for the district's Bayou Meto and Murrell Taylor elementary schools.

It is the fourth bond issue made possible by the 2019 voter-approved plan to extend the district's existing property tax levy of 22.4 mills for debt service to 2055. Those 22.4 mills were otherwise due to expire in the early 2040s.

The district's overall property tax rate is 48.3 mills.

The winning bid for the bonds was made by Carty & Company Inc.

Two other companies also bid on the $15 million issue: Robert W. Baird & Company Inc. that offered an interest rate of 4.723473% and Raymond James & Associates, Inc., that offered an interest rate of 4.769888%.

Scott Beardsley, president of First Security-Beardsley and a financial advisor to the Jacksonville district, said the interest rates offered were higher than rates the district received for three earlier bond issues.

However, Beardsley said the winning bid was still below the 5% rate that was anticipated when the district asked voters in 2019 to approve the extension of the debt service mills.

The district will pay off the bond debt over 30 years, or by 2053.