Pulaski County officials are planning their next steps, when it comes to the renovation of the courthouse and expansion of the Justice Center. During a joint session with the county council Monday, the commissioners agreed to ask Rowland Design for a quote for final design work, since the company already did the preliminary plans.
The council and commissioners also heard from three firms interested in helping with a potential bond issuance. Baker Tilly and Peters Municipal Consultants are offering to serve as the municipal advisor, while Barnes & Thornburg is interested in being the project’s bond counsel.
When it comes to funding the project, there are a number of variables that still have to be considered. Legislation currently before the Indiana General Assembly would let the county extend a local income tax that’s currently in place. But Todd Samuelson with Baker Tilly didn’t think that would be enough. “Generally speaking, income tax-supported bonds are common, but the bond market does know that income is subject to fluctuation and it’s going to be up and down with economic conditions,” Samuelson added. “We’re going to look historically at the county on kind of what is that potential fluctuation, and unfortunately, lately, it’s just been on a downward trend.”
When it comes to supporting bonds with property taxes, Pulaski County could issue up to about $6.1 million in general obligation bonds. Anything beyond that would require the more complicated lease-rental process. That’s where ownership of the buildings would be transferred to a legally-separate building corporation and leased back by the county.
Using money the county already has on hand is also an option. Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer said the county has about $3.8 million in eligible cash reserves. But that money may go away, if the county doesn’t take steps to reduce its deficit.
Origer has also looked into the county’s certificates of deposit. “Out of the about $4.3 million, give or take, we have in CDs, $1,080,000 we have are in funds that would be eligible for this project, and then there’s another $145,000 that would be eligible only for the basement workforce dorm project, if we proceeded with that,” Origer said.
Whoever is selected as municipal advisor would have to look into all of those options and recommend a combination that’s best for the county. Representatives of all three of the firms said they would charge an hourly rate with a maximum limit.
Samuelson said Baker Tilly’s cap would likely be in the $45,000 range. Peters Municipal Consultants would have the advantage of having recently completed a fiscal plan for the county, potentially saving some work. Barnes & Thornburg representatives weren’t ready to estimate a price until they know more about the structure of the bond issuance. Samuelson guessed that the total cost of issuing bonds for this size of a project could be $150,000 to $200,000.
County Attorney Kevin Tankersley pointed out that issuing bonds can be a long process, and if the county wants to get it done by the end of 2020, they’d already be cutting it close.