Police/FireThe Examiner

Millwood Fire District to Save $1.1M By Refinancing Firehouse Bonds

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Millwood Fire District taxpayers received encouraging news recently after commissioners decided to reissue bonds that will retire the firehouse expansion project debt two years earlier than scheduled, which will save about $1.1 million in interest.

Fire district Treasurer Rose Cohen said that with historically low interest rates having dipped to 1.25 percent from nearly twice that figure, it made sense to refinance the remaining $7,365,000.

“It’s really a perfect time to refinance a municipal bond,” Cohen said.

Commissioners have decided to maintain the current payment levels for the owners of the approximately 1,800 parcels in the district. However, two years will be shaved off the original 25-year bond. Instead of expiring in 2037, the bonds will now be fully paid off in 2035, Cohen said.

Voters approved nearly $10 million in borrowing in 2011 for the 18,600-square-foot, five-bay facility on Route 133, several hundred feet down the street from the old firehouse, an antiquated structure built in 1924. Much of the remaining portion of the more than $13 million project came from a district capital reserve fund. Another $700,000 came from the sale of the old firehouse property.

Alan Schapiro, chairman of the board of the Millwood fire commissioners, said the board could have reduced the annual payments for taxpayers for the new bonds but maintain the 2037 maturity date or keep the payments the same as scheduled and have the debt retired sooner. The savings was greater by cutting two years off the life of the bonds, he said.

“By choosing this option we’re able to not pay any more than we were paying previously and cut two years off the term of the loan,” Schapiro said.

The refinancing was made possible because the fire district has been able to maintain its AA2 rating from Moody’s despite the added expenses, Cohen said. She said the ratings outfit commended the department on its strong fiscal management.

Schapiro said it helped that the project came in on budget while commissioners continue to look for ways to improve the district’s fiscal situation.

The new firehouse has also been as good as advertised since it opened more than five years ago.

“It’s an aesthetically pleasing building, it’s functionally efficient,” he said. “It really worked our for the firefighters, for the district and for everyone.”

The district tried for years to build a new firehouse with larger structures receiving community opposition because of cost and potential environmental concerns.

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