Pelham BOE considers borrowing millions within first year of operation

The Shelby County city of Pelham{} still is in the process of negotiating a separation agreement with Shelby County Schools. Pelham's new city school district hopes to make the split complete by July first. But before the ink is dry on that agreement, the new school board already is talking about borrowing $40 million.

The board isn't certain it will need to borrow the money. However, the idea to borrow 40 million for renovations and a new school was presented in a preliminary study. Still, some question if a new school system should start out in debt. Board president Rick Rhoades says he understands the concerns. But he says new facilities are needed.

"We think that if we're going to be competitive with the other great systems in our area then we've got to improve the physical layouts," said Rhoades.

Rhoades says improved physical features of Pelham schools will provide a better learning environment for their students. That's why the board is considering borrowing some 40 million dollars within its first year of operation. Some may call it risky. {}{} "I think that with every endeavor there is a certain element of a leap of faith. There has to be some of that," he said.

If the board decides to borrow the money. How will it go about securing the funds? When will it be paid back? Rhoades says he doesn't have concrete answers just yet. "We looked at trying to work through bonds. Do we want to borrow money directly from a bank? do we want to partner with the city? do we want to go on our own? I mean, there are a lot of questions that have to be answered in that regard?," he said.

What Rhoades is certain about is how the money would be used. He says extensive renovations would be made to Valley Elementary school. Valley Intermediate School would be converted into a middle school. And a new elementary school would be built east of Interstate 65.

Rhoades says the board will proceed with caution, and will be sure to ask questions and get guidance from its chief financial officer. "I think the last thing you want to do is get yourself into financial problems. That could stop all the good plans, good wishes, the best of intentions could be stopped immediately by poor financial management. And so we're very much aware of that."