“This is a great day for Walker County,” District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt said. “Any time a government entity can sit and tell you they have saved a substantial amount of money, that is good.”
The debt being refinanced resulted mostly from a $9.4 million loan former commissioners borrowed in 2002. That commission agreed to pay back $27 million and deferred the payment until 2018.
District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said that agreement was used in a recent financial administration course for county commissioners as an example of what not to do.
“What this commission has done is taken that bad decision and restructured it to save the county almost $4 million,” Davis said. “This is a major accomplishment for our county and the 70,000 people we represent.”
Along with the savings, the refinance also brought the county an “A-plus” credit rating, according to representatives from Sterne Agee, the firm handling the agreement.
“We want to take that rating and expand that into bringing jobs and industry into Walker County,” Davis said. “When a company is looking into an area, the financial standing of the county is something they look at.”
Before the meeting was over, congratulations were already being received by commissioners. Chairman Billy Luster received a text from Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, who was in Las Vegas for an international conference of shopping centers.
“I send a heartfelt congratulation, because I just heard the news that Walker County saved millions of dollars while also achieving the ‘A-plus’ rating. The chamber is proud to be your partner,” she said via text.
Commission members were unanimous in thanking Sterne Agee for its work.
“The company has gone far and above and beyond anything a public entity could ask a private sector business to do for them,” Aderholt said.
Davis said the county was able to negotiate a great underwriting fee with the company.
“When everything took place in 2002, the fee was about $40 per $1,000. This agreement was $6 per $1,000,” Davis said. “Sterne Agee worked good with a very good rate.”
Payments on the debt refinance will begin in 2018 and continue through 2032. Davis said the savings will average about $300,000 per year. He said the refinance makes the county’s future much brighter.
“We have only been in office five months, and I don’t know the future, but all I can tell you is to put your seat belts on and hold on because we are just getting started,” he said.