The Piney River Technical Center photo
The Piney River Technical Center. Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO

Members of the Houston board of education last week approved a financing package that will allow it to buy two buildings with an aim of enhancing technical education in the school district.

The deal includes the Piney River Technical Center on Spruce Street that houses Drury University, The Durham Co. and Houston School District vocational classes of welding and health science. The latter also include students from Summersville and Plato. The building is owned by the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Houston.

The transaction also includes a building at Steffens and First streets in Houston. Last school year, an alternative school operated there.

In a plan outlined by Dr. Allen Moss, superintendent, some existing vocational programs might relocate to the building — including business, family and consumer science, agriculture and building trades. There is also room for possible future programs. Agreements with Drury and Durham will remain in place.

The district, Moss said, would continue plans to pursue an Area Technical Center status through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for possible future growth.

The move helps accomplish one goal of its strategic plan that calls for the district to provide space and facilities to promote and expand career and technical education.

The cost of the project is $845,000 under a 10-year lease financing managed by L.J. Hart, a firm from St. Louis that has assisted the district over the years in financial transactions. At the same time, the district will examine tapping its federal COVID-19 funds for projects that are permissible and look at grant possibilities that would assist with cost.

FINANCING

Hart said his firm offered lease certificates that draw interest to local financial institutions and individual investors.

Erin McManus, senior analyst of L.J. Hart and Company, said three banks with a presence in Houston committed to purchases: West Plains Bank and Trust Company, $350,000; Progressive Ozark Bank, $250,000; and Security Bank of the Ozarks, $245,000.

“It is wonderful that our marketing procedures facilitated this local involvement while still receiving attractive interest rates,” said Jennifer Scheets, president of the Houston board of education. The board had earlier asked the financial firm to negotiate the sale of the bonds to capture current market conditions, to be certain that local individual investors and banks received an opportunity to participate and determine the rates were fair based on current markets.

“We are thrilled that 100 percent of the financing has been purchased locally,” Moss said.

The certificates are expected to mature March 1, 2027 to March 1, 2031, with sinking fund payments beginning on March 1, 2025.

It is possible that the district might redeem the certificates on March 1, 2023, with no penalty. That move could reduce future expense, which already has a low interest rate.

Funds are expected to be available to the district next Tuesday.

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