Ashburn, VA — June 27, 2019 — John C. Wilson, CPA, chief school financial officer for the Baldwin County Public Schools in Bay Minette, Alabama, is being honored by the Association of School Business Officials International with its Pinnacle of Achievement Award for an innovative strategy to address overcrowded schools.
Many school systems have to raise taxes and pledge those proceeds toward a 20- or 30-year capital bond in order to fund construction projects. The Baldwin County school system—one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state—didn’t have the luxury of either of those two options for addressing significant overcrowding concerns. The solution was a four-year $60 million “Pay As You Go” construction financing plan utilizing local banks, low interest rates, and an aggressive draw down funding schedule, Wilson explains.
The first step involved going through the budget line by line, cutting expenses and creating savings that wouldn’t impact the classroom. Through the coordination of the superintendent, board, and staff, $15 million was identified for annual capital construction needs.
“This helped to address wings and additions, but new schools were the only true solution for addressing our growth,” Wilson says.
The second step required the district to partner with the county commission so the district could retain the commission’s backing of the capital plan and the existing sales tax could be extended to stabilize funding for this program. Finally, the district created a financing structure which required no additional taxes and outlined a four-year time-frame to borrow and repay all outstanding debt.
“As a result of our innovative financing structure, we are currently building four new schools. These will be paid off completely in a four-year period, without any long-term bonds or additional taxes.”
The Pinnacle Awards showcase applicable projects and practices that allow district business leaders to exchange and implement new ideas to better support their schools and communities. The awards are sponsored by Virco, Inc.
Wilson will be presented the crystal Pinnacle of Achievement Award at ASBO International’s 2019 Annual Conference & Expo in National Harbor, Maryland, in October.
MESSAGE FROM BALDWIN COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT EDDIE TYLER
A big honor has been bestowed upon Baldwin County Public Schools as one of our own, Baldwin County's Chief School Financial Officer John Wilson, has been given the International Association of School Business Official's - International Pinnacle of Achievement Award for the innovative strategy used to address our past funding crisis, growth demands and overcrowded schools.
While other school systems raise taxes and use bonds to fund construction projects, Baldwin County Public Schools did not have that option.
Officials looked at strategic planning for budget cuts to create a small, “Pay-As-You-Go”, construction plan to meet the needs of our unprecedented growth. The program utilizes existing taxes and short-term loans over a recurring four-year cycle. While this program is being implemented over several phases, in the last decade we have seen nearly $150 million in school construction with all debt paid off by 2021!
This award highlights Baldwin County's commitment to fiscal responsibility. By not using bonds, nor long term debt, the current construction projects have saved the county tax payers more than $75 million in interest and expenses over this four year period.
Today, Baldwin County Public Schools are booming with school construction with three new schools opening this summer. More than a dozen projects, valued at over $100 million, are still in the works to fill the needs for one of the fastest growing counties in America. The next Pay-As-You-Go phase is already being planned and Mr. Wilson and our Strategic Leadership Team are developing the third phase.
The ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking John Wilson brought to Baldwin County has been a game-changer for us. This Pay-As-You-Go program is unique to Baldwin County Public Schools and is a great example of how stable funding and a commitment to working together can solve many of our problems.
Please help me celebrate Mr. Wilson's honor as he is presented the International Association's Crystal Pinnacle of Achievement Award this October, at the ASBO 2019 Annual Conference & Expo.