07/07/04 — County hires firm to find way to pay for building

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County hires firm to find way to pay for building

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 7, 2004 2:12 PM

The Wayne County commissioners hired a firm Tuesday to plan how to pay for future building projects, including schools, without increasing property taxes. County officials also said that the current $82 million building plan requested by the schools could not be fully funded.

The board's action will likely cause school officials to reassess their plans. The Board of Education had presented an $82 million building plan, but school needs will now be balanced with other projects and within the constraints of the current tax rate, county officials say.

"The $82 million is off the table," County Manager Lee Smith said. "Now we're looking at what we can afford."

Whatever that amount is, the school board "will have to massage it and make it work," Smith said.

An official with Davenport & Company LLC, the firm the commissioners hired Tuesday, had told county commissioners last November that they could afford a $42 million school building program without a tax increase. Since then, interest rates have started to climb.

But Davenport employees will be doing a more in-depth analysis now.

Davenport will receive $7,500 per quarter, or $30,000 for the year, although the county can cancel the contract with 30 days notice at any time without penalty.

The company will also be able to negotiate fees for any additional services it provides.

Davenport is expected to make several recommendations to the county board but not before this fall. "It'll be several months," company official David Rose said.

The county's contract will cover the company's review of current finances, debt level and the capital improvements plan; its analysis of financing options; and its recommendations of financing options.

The company will also be advising the county on its investment strategies, which could increase revenues enough to cover the contract.

Davenport & Company LLC was established in 1863 in Richmond, Va. Today it has more than 400 employees servicing clients in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. It has several contracts with local governments, including Forsyth, Durham, New Hanover, Lincoln, Lee, Cumberland, Pitt and Johnston counties in North Carolina.

The commissioners voted 6-0 for the contract. Commissioner Arnold Flowers missed the meeting.