Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The Morris County Improvement Authority, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has compiled an enviable track record of saving money for county taxpayers.

In its short 10-year existence, the Morris County Improvement Authority has transacted more than $204 million worth of construction and refinancing loans for school districts and local governments in the county, saving those participants $15.4 million in debt service.

Of that, one-third, or nearly $5.3 million can be directly attributed to leveraging Morris County’s AAA bond rating to enhance the savings.

John Bonanni, chairman of the Improvement Authority, presented those figures April 25 to the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

“Since the Improvement Authority was established in 2002, it has generated significant savings for local governmental units and school districts in the county, while at the same time helping them meet their critical capital needs,” Bonanni said.

Under state law, improvement authorities have more flexibility in financing and issuing bonds.

Towns and school districts that finance their debt through the Morris County Improvement Authority will get a better interest rate than they will on their own, said Freeholder Director William Chegwidden, freeholder liaison to the Improvement Authority.

“When they use the Morris County Improvement Authority to finance a construction project or to refinance bond issuances, they reap the benefit of the county’s AAA bond rating, and that means lower interest rates and greater savings for the taxpayer,” Chegwidden said.

The Morris Hills Regional School District, the Morris County Educational Services Commission and school districts in Roxbury, Mount Olive, Chester Township and Washington Township are among the school districts that have benefitted by using the MCIA over the last decade.

Earlier this year, the Morris Hills Regional District saved almost $1.7 million by using the Improvement Authority to refinance a 2004 bond issuance.

“These are sizeable savings, much of which is the result of the low-interest benefits of Morris County’s AAA bond rating,” Bonanni said.

Other entities that have used the MCIA to finance critical projects or refinance loans and save tax dollars for their citizens include the communities of Denville, Lincoln Park, Madison, Morris Plains, Morris Township, Morristown and the County of Morris.

The MCIA has also helped towns and school districts borrow money at low interest rates to finance needed equipment through the Authority’s Guaranteed Capital Equipment Lease Program. Under this program, since 2004, low-interest loans totaling $32 million have been facilitated by the MCIA for 24 school districts and five municipalities enabling them to borrow money for equipment ranging from school buses, vans and public works vehicles to computers and band uniforms, Bonanni said.

The Guaranteed Capital Equipment Lease Program is a county guaranteed leasing program that gives the participants a below market alternative to vendor lease financing for capital equipment.     

“We are extremely happy to be helping the municipalities and school districts in the county save money through the Improvement Authority”s programs,” Chegwidden said. “That’s one reason why maintaining the AAA bond rating Morris County has had since 1975 is so important. It has a significant positive impact on the cost of borrowing money for needed improvements.”