Lafayette County goes nearly debt-free

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – By lunchtime on Thursday, Lafayette County is slated to be (almost) debt-free.
That’s the day county officials will transfer funds to pay off $10,731,133 in general obligation bonds, using part of the county’s $30 million share of proceeds from the sale of the hospital it jointly owned with the city of Oxford to Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation.
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Tuesday to undertake the debt payoff. District 2 Supervisor Johnny Morgan was not present for the specially called meeting.
The defeasance process will use Hancock Bank as a trustee to hold the funds, paying off each bond issue at its earliest redemption date. The first will be paid Dec. 1, and the latest will be in about two years. Meanwhile, SLGS (state and local government securities) maintain the bonds’ tax-exempt status.
Bob Wood, a Ridgeland attorney handling the transaction, said the payment will fulfill all the county’s obligations for those debts.
“You’re out from under all the covenants in the bond resolutions that were adopted for each of the issues,” he said. “The bonds are paid, as far as the county is concerned, so you’ll have no more bonded indebtedness.”
Lafayette County will still have one other set of debts outstanding – Capital Improvement Revolving Loan Program loans through the Mississippi Development Authority. Those funds went toward improvements at one of the sites now occupied by Winchester/Olin.
“We plan on paying them off in November,” said Lafayette County Administrator Joseph Johnson, who said the amount to be repaid is being determined.
While most of the current board members have publicly supported paying off the county’s debts, Board President Lloyd Oliphant has been among the most vocal.
“This is one of the best things I’ve done in this job,” he said Tuesday.
“I would guess you’ll probably be the only county in the state of Mississippi that’s debt-free,” Wood told him. “I could certainly say you’ll be one of very few.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com