Friday, October 21st, 2011
By Shelley Grieshop
Debt refinance saves big bucks
  CELINA - Refinancing a portion of the county's debt will save taxpayers more than a quarter million dollars during the next 11 years.
Mercer County Commissioners on Thursday met with a representative of Peck Shaffer, a bond consultant company, to complete the refinancing process for a debt of $2.39 million related to several county-owned properties.
The money owed is for the 1995 purchase and renovation of the Central Services Building in Celina, a parking lot to the west and several adjacent properties. The county initially secured a bond for $3.75 million.
The old bond carried a variable interest rate that fluctuated between 3.8 percent and 7.4 percent - the highest rate paid between 2005 and 2008, documents showed. Interest rates have dropped in recent years due to the sluggish economy.
The new bond's variable rate will average a 3.02 percent interest rate through 2023, according to the note.
Commissioners said the savings will help them battle upcoming state funding cuts.
"It's that much more we don't have to use of taxpayer money," commissioner Jerry Laffin said.
Commissioner Bob Nuding said the savings amounts to more than $20,000 each year.
"That's money we didn't have before ... We've got to be creative," he said.
The 40,931-square-foot Central Services Building was purchased from Celina Insurance Group, which used the facility as a training center. A closed tunnel still exists underground between the county building and the insurance company's building across the street to the north, Laffin said.
The Central Services Building has three floors and houses 10 county agencies. Only four of those - the health department, veterans service, Ohio State University Extension office and the board of commissioners - do not pay rent.
"Ohio Revised Code states we have to provide the space (at no cost)," Laffin explained.
Also included in the bond debt is the 1995 purchase of two former homes to the east that now house offices for the prosecutor and EMA agencies.
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